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Satellite-derived plant cover maps vary in performance depending on version and product

September 15, 2023

Understanding the accuracy and appropriate application scale of satellite-derived maps of vegetation cover is essential for effective management of the vast, remote rangelands of the world. However, the underlying models are updated frequently and may combine with rapidly changing vegetation conditions to cause variations in accuracy and precision over time. We sought to assess how model performance changed between different versions of satellite-derived cover products (Rangeland Analysis Platform, RAP, and Rangeland Condition Monitoring and Assessment Protocol, RCMAP) and how the performance of LandCart compared to RAP and RCMAP. Additionally, we asked how variability in agreement between LandCart and field-based models varied with scale. We utilized an intensive dataset of grid-point intercept functional group cover data collected between 2016 and 2020 across the ∼113 kHA 2015 Soda Wildfire to 1) evaluate r2 agreement between versions of each satellite-derived product and plot-level field data and 2) assess relative standard error of agreement in cover between LandCart and continuous field-based Empirical Bayesian Kriging (EBK) regression models. Agreement between satellite- compared to field-plot values of cover (r2) increased for RCMAP Version 5.0 compared to Version 2.0, but there were negligible changes between versions of RAP. Despite this, r2 values of RCMAP and LandCart were nearly always less than RAP. Variability in agreement between EBK regression model cover and LandCart-derived cover decreased with the scale of consideration. Variability in agreement between satellite-derived cover products and field-based metrics is lowest at larger scale (mega-fire or regional) and varies from year to year and across versions, which could complicate detection of temporal changes in plant cover.

Publication Year 2023
Title Satellite-derived plant cover maps vary in performance depending on version and product
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolind.2023.110950
Authors Cara Applestein, Matthew Germino
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Indicators
Index ID 70248492
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center