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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #377051

Research Project: Science and Technologies for the Sustainable Management of Western Rangeland Systems

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Improving Landsat predictions of rangeland fractional cover with multitask learning and uncertainty

Author
item ALLRED, BRADY - UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
item Bestelmeyer, Brandon
item Boyd, Chad
item BROWN, CHRISTOPHER - GOOGLE
item Davies, Kirk
item DUNIWAY, MICHEAL - (NCE, CECR)NETWORKS OF CENTRES OF EXELLENCE OF CANADA, CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE FOR COMMERCILIZATION AND RESEARCH
item ELLSWORTH, LISA - OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
item ERICKSON, TYLER - GOOGLE
item FUHLENDORF, SAMUEL - OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY
item GRIFFITHS, TIMOTHY - NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS, USDA)
item JANSEN, VINCENT - UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO
item JONES, MATTHEW - UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
item KARL, JASON - UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO
item KNIGHT, ANNA - U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY (USGS)
item MAESTAS, JEREMY - NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS, USDA)
item MAYNARD, JONATHAN - UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO
item McCord, Sarah
item NAUGLE, DAVID - UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
item STARNS, HEATH - WEST TEXAS A & M UNIVERSITY
item TWIDWELL, DIRAC - UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA
item UDEN, DANIEL - UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA

Submitted to: Methods in Ecology and Evolution
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/15/2021
Publication Date: 5/20/2021
Citation: Allred, B.W., Bestelmeyer, B.T., Boyd, C.S., Brown, C., Davies, K.W., Duniway, M.C., Ellsworth, L.M., Erickson, T.A., Fuhlendorf, S.D., Griffiths, T.V., Jansen, V., Jones, M.O., Karl, J., Knight, A., Maestas, J.D., Maynard, J.J., McCord, S.E., Naugle, D.E., Starns, H.D., Twidwell, D., Uden, D.R. 2021. Improving Landsat predictions of rangeland fractional cover with multitask learning and uncertainty . Methods in Ecology and Evolution. 12(5):841-849. https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.13564.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.13564

Interpretive Summary: We used advanced computational procedures to produce a vegetation cover product that spans western United States rangelands. We trained the model with 52,012 on-the-ground vegetation plots to simultaneously predict fractional cover for annual forbs and grasses, perennial forbs and grasses, shrubs, trees, litter, and bare ground. To assist interpretation and to provide a measure of prediction confidence, we also produced spatially-explicit, pixel-level estimates of uncertainty We evaluated the model with 5,780 on-the-ground vegetation plots removed from the training data. The advancements achieved with the new rangeland fractional cover product expand the management toolbox with improved predictions of fractional cover and pixel-level uncertainty. The new product is available on the Rangeland Analysis Platform (https://gcc02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Frangelands.app%2F&data=02%7C01%7C%7Cb6aedae4faa445f24aac08d83956278b%7Ced5b36e701ee4ebc867ee03cfa0d4697%7C0%7C0%7C637322389800163489&sdata=2dOw6cwqGIuBhL8TMt8FR%2BsOE5i38McfJHrInb3FMv0%3D&reserved=0), an interactive web application that tracks rangeland vegetation through time. This product is intended to be used alongside local on-the-ground data, expert knowledge, land use history, scientific literature, and other sources of information when making interpretations. When being used to inform decision-making, remotely sensed products should be evaluated and utilized according to the context of the decision and not be used in isolation.

Technical Abstract: 1. Operational satellite remote sensing products are transforming rangeland management and science. Advancements in computation, data storage, and processing have removed barriers that previously blocked or hindered the development and use of remote sensing products. When combined with local data and knowledge, remote sensing products can inform decision making at multiple scales. 2. We used temporal convolutional networks to produce a fractional cover product that spans western United States rangelands. We trained the model with 52,012 on-the-ground vegetation plots to simultaneously predict fractional cover for annual forbs and grasses, perennial forbs and grasses, shrubs, trees, litter, and bare ground. To assist interpretation and to provide a measure of prediction confidence, we also produced spatially-explicit, pixel-level estimates of uncertainty. We evaluated the model with 5,780 on-the-ground vegetation plots removed from the training data. 3. Model evaluation averaged 6.3% mean absolute error and 9.6% root mean squared error. Model performance increased across all functional groups compared to the previously produced fractional product. 4. The advancements achieved with the new rangeland fractional cover product expand the management toolbox with improved predictions of fractional cover and pixel-level uncertainty. The new product is available on the Rangeland Analysis Platform (https://rangelands.app/), an interactive web application that tracks rangeland vegetation through time. This product is intended to be used alongside local on-the-ground data, expert knowledge, land use history, scientific literature, and other sources of information when making interpretations. When being used to inform decision-making, remotely sensed products should be evaluated and utilized according to the context of the decision and not be used in isolation.