A Protocol for Retrospective Remote Sensing-Based Ecological Monitoring of Rangelands
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CitationWashington-Allen, R. A., West, N. E., Ramsey, R. D., & Efroymson, R. A. (2006). A protocol for retrospective remote sensing–based ecological monitoring of rangelands. Rangeland Ecology & Management, 59(1), 19-29.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalRangeland Ecology & Management
AbstractThe degree of rangeland degradation in the United States is unknown due to the failure of traditional field-based monitoring to capture the range of variability of ecological indicators and disturbances, including climatic effects and land use practices, at regional to national spatial scales, and temporal scales of decades. Here, a protocol is presented for retrospective monitoring and assessment of rangeland degradation using historical time series of remote sensing data and catastrophe theory as an ecological framework to account for both gradual and rapid changes of state. This protocol 1) justifies the use of time-series satellite imagery in terms of the spatial and temporal scale of data collection; 2) briefly explains how to acquire, process, and transform the data into ecological indicators; 3) discusses the use of time-series analysis as the appropriate procedure for detecting significant change; and 4) explains what reference conditions are appropriate. Landsat data have been collected and archived since 1972, and include complete coverage of US rangelands. Characteristics of land degradation can be retrospectively measured for a nearly 33-year trend using surrogate remote sensing-based indicators that correlate with changes in life-form composition (time series of thematic maps), declines in vegetation productivity (vegetation indices), accelerated soil erosion (soil indices), declines in soil quality (piospheric analysis), and changes in landscape configuration (time series of thematic maps). Aspects of 2 retrospective studies are presented as examples of application of the protocol to considerations of the land use impacts from military training and testing and ranching activities on rangelands.