• Remote sensing for cover change assessment in southeast Arizona

      Wallace, O. C.; Qi, J.; Heilma, P.; Marsett, R. C. (Society for Range Management, 2003-09-01)
      Understanding landscape conversion is vital for assessing the impacts of ecological and anthropogenic disturbances at regional and global scales. Since rangelands cover nearly half of the global land surface, and because a large part of rangelands is located in semi-arid ecosystems, they serve as critical land cover types for determining regional biodiversity, global biogeochemical cycles, and energy and gas fluxes. For such vast ecosystems, satellite imagery is often used to inventory biophysical materials and man-made features on Earth's surface. The large area coverage and frequent acquisition cycle of remotely sensed satellite images make earth observation data useful for monitoring land conversion rates at different spatial scales. Remote sensing could also be used for temporal assessment of semi-arid ecosystems by providing complimentary sets of rangeland health indicators. In this paper, temporal satellite data from multiple sensors were examined to quantify land use and land cover change, and to relate spatial configuration and composition to landscape structure and pattern. The findings were correlated with the role of fire to better understand ecological functionality and human and/or natural activities that are generating environmental stressors in a rapidly developing, semi-urban census division located in southeastern Arizona. Results indicate that conversion of a fire-suppressed native grassland area has 2 spatial components; in the rural areas, grass is being eliminated by increasingly homogeneous shrub and mesquite-dominated areas, whereas in the urban and suburban areas, grass as well shrubs and mesquite are being eliminated by a fragmented and expanding built landscape.