Multiscale Remote Sensing Analysis To Monitor Riparian And Upland Semiarid Vegetation
AdvisorGlenn, Edward P.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe health of natural vegetation communities is of concern due to observed changes in the climatic-hydrological regime and land cover changes particularly in arid and semiarid regions. Monitoring vegetation at multi temporal and spatial scales can be the most informative approach for detecting change and inferring causal agents of change and remediation strategies. Riparian communities are tightly linked to annual stream hydrology, ground water elevations and sediment transport. These processes are subject to varying magnitudes of disturbance overtime and are candidates for multi-scale monitoring. My first research objective focused on the response of vegetation in the Upper San Pedro River, Arizona, to reduced base flows and climate change. I addressed the correlation between riparian vegetation and hydro-climate variables during the last three decades in one of the remaining undammed rivers in the southwestern U.S. Its riparian forest is threatened by the diminishing base flows, attributed by different studies either to increases in evapotranspiration (ET) due to conversion of grasslands to mesquite shrublands in the adjacent uplands, or to increased regional groundwater pumping to serve growing populations in surrounding urban areas and or to some interactions of those causes. Landsat 5 imagery was acquired for pre- monsoon period, when riparian trees had leafed out but before the arrival of summer monsoon rains in July. The result has showed Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) values from both Landsat and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) had significant decreases which positively correlated to river flows, which decreased over the study period, and negatively correlated with air temperatures, which have increased by about 1.4°C from 1904 to the present. The predictions from other studies that decreased river flows could negatively impact the riparian forest were supported by this study. The pre-monsoon Normalized Different Vegetation Index (NDVI) average values in the adjacent uplands also decreased over thirty years and were correlated with the previous year's annual precipitation. Hence an increase in ET in the uplands did not appear to be responsible for the decrease in river flows in this study, leaving increased regional groundwater pumping as a feasible alternative explanation for decreased flows and deterioration of the riparian forest. The second research objective was to develop a new method of classification using very high-resolution aerial photo to map riparian vegetation at the species level in the Colorado River Ecosystem, Grand Canyon area, Arizona. Ground surveys have showed an obvious trend in which non-native saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) has replaced native vegetation over time. Our goal was to develop a quantitative mapping procedure to detect changes in vegetation as the ecosystem continues to respond to hydrological and climate changes. Vegetation mapping for the Colorado River Ecosystem needed an updated database map of the area covered by riparian vegetation and an indicator of species composition in the river corridor. The objective of this research was to generate a new riparian vegetation map at species level using a supervised image classification technique for the purpose of patch and landscape change detection. A new classification approach using multispectral images allowed us to successfully identify and map riparian species coverage the over whole Colorado River Ecosystem, Grand Canyon area. The new map was an improvement over the initial 2002 map since it reduced fragmentation from mixed riparian vegetation areas. The most dominant tree species in the study areas is saltcedar (Tamarix spp.). The overall accuracy is 93.48% and the kappa coefficient is 0.88. The reference initial inventory map was created using 2002 images to compare and detect changes through 2009. The third objective of my research focused on using multiplatform of remote sensing and ground calibration to estimate the effects of vegetation, land use patterns and water cycles. Climate change, hydrological and human uses are also leading to riparian, upland, grassland and crop vegetation changes at a variety of temporal and spatial scales, particularly in the arid and semi-arid ecosystems, which are more sensitive to changes in water availability than humid ecosystems. The objectives of these studies from the last three articles were to evaluate the effect of water balance on vegetation indices in different plant communities based on relevant spatial and temporal scales. The new methodology of estimating water requirements using remote sensing data and ground calibration with flux tower data has been successfully tested at a variety sites, a sparse desert shrub environment as well as mixed riparian and cropland systems and upland vegetation in the arid and semi-arid regions. The main finding form these studies is that vegetation-index methods have to be calibrated with ground data for each new ecosystem but once calibrated they can accurately scale ET over wide areas and long time spans.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Soil, Water and Environmental Science