• Estimating sagebrush biomass using terrestrial laser scanning

      Olsoy, P. J.; Glenn, N. F.; Clark, P. E. (Society for Range Management, 2014-03)
      The presence of sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) in rangelands has declined due to the invasion of annual grasses such as cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and the feedback between these flammable grasses and wildfire frequency. Monitoring the change and distribution of suitable habitat and fuel loads is an important aspect of sagebrush management, particularly under future climate conditions. Assessments of sagebrush biomass are used to monitor habitat for critical wildlife species, determine fire risk, and quantify carbon storage. Field techniques such as destructive and point-intercept sampling have been used to determine sagebrush biomass, but both of these techniques can be expensive and time consuming to implement. Light detection and ranging techniques, including airborne laser scanning and terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) have potential for rapidly assessing biomass in sagebrush steppe. This study used TLS to estimate biomass of 29 sagebrush plants in Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed, Idaho. Biomass was estimated using TLS-derived volume, then compared with destructive samples to assess the estimation accuracy. This accuracy level was then contrasted with the estimates obtained using point-intercept sampling of the same plants. The TLS approach (R2-=-0.90) was slightly better for predicting total biomass than point-intercept sampling (R2-=-0.85). Prediction of green biomass, or production, was more accurate using TLS-derived volume (R2-=-0.86) than point-intercept sampling (R 2-=-0.65). This study explores a promising new method to repeatedly monitor sagebrush biomass across extensive landscapes. Future work should focus on making this method independent of sensor type, scan distance, scan number, and study area. © 2014 The Society for Range Management.
    • Human infrastructure and invasive plant occurrence across rangelands of Southwestern Wyoming, USA

      Manier, D. J.; Aldridge, C. L.; O'Donnell, M.; Schell, S. J. (Society for Range Management, 2014-03)
      Although human influence across rural landscapes is often discussed, interactions between the native, natural systems and human activities are challenging to measure explicitly. We assessed the distribution of introduced, invasive species as related to anthropogenic infrastructure and environmental conditions across southwestern Wyoming. to discern direct correlations as well as covariate influences between land use, land cover, and abundance of invasive plants, and assess the supposition that these features affect surrounding rangeland conditions. Our sample units were 1-000 m long and extended outward from target features, which included roads, oil and gas well pads, pipelines, power lines, and featureless background sites. Sample sites were distributed across the region using a stratified, random design with a frame that represented features and land-use intensity. In addition to land-use gradients, we captured a representative, but limited, range of variability in climate, soils, geology, topography, and dominant vegetation. Several of these variables proved significant, in conjunction with distance from anthropogenic features, in regression models of invasive plant abundance. We used general linear models to demonstrate and compare associations between invasive plant frequency and Euclidian distance from features, natural logarithm transformed distances (log-linear), and environmental variables which were presented as potential covariates. We expected a steep curvilinear (log or exponential) decline trending towards an asymptote along the axis representing high abundance near features with rapid decrease beyond approximately 50-100 m. Some of the associations we document exhibit this pattern, but we also found some invasive plant distributions that extended beyond our expectations, suggesting a broader distribution than anticipated. Our results provide details that can inform local efforts for management and control of invasive species, and they provide evidence of the different associations between natural patterns and human land use exhibited by nonnative species in this rural setting, such as the indirect effects of humans beyond impact areas. © 2014 The Society for Range Management.