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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #357860

Research Project: Management Technologies for Conservation of Western Rangelands

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Plant phenology: Taking the pulse of rangelands

item Browning, Dawn
item Snyder, Keirith
item Herrick, Jeffrey - Jeff

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/8/2019
Publication Date: 6/1/2019
Citation: Browning, D.M., Snyder, K.A., Herrick, J.E. 2019. Plant phenology: Taking the pulse of rangelands. Rangelands. 41(3):129-134.

Interpretive Summary: Rangeland managers require timely, reliable, and easily interpretable information about their land to inform decisions. One of the biggest challenges managers face is the high temporal variability in plant establishment, growth, and reproduction. Phenology data that describe the timing of plant seasonal stages offer an incredibly powerful and underutilized opportunity to increase management effectiveness through precision timing. The data are easier to collect than ever using field observation, phenocams and satellite imagery. On-line tools make metric calculation simple, while increasingly sophisticated algorithms are facilitating the integration of different sources of phenological data. The results of these integrated analyses will increasingly allow managers in the private and public sectors to target management interventions, including grazing, herbicide applications and prescribed fire, with pinpoint accuracy in both space and time.

Technical Abstract: Plant phenology—timing of seasonal life cycle events— is a primary control on ecosystem productivity. Phenology data can be used to design better management systems by adjusting the timing of grazing or managed burns relative to growth stages of key species and planning restoration activities, such as targeted grazing. Tower-mounted digital cameras (phenocams) provide a cost effective way to collect data to capture phenology metrics for vegetation greenness. Phenocam greenness values can provide canopy level metrics in real time for a fraction of the cost of field observations and link field and satellite observations to reveal species contributions to greenness.