Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Analyzing vegetation change in a sagebrush ecosystem using long-term field observations and Landsat imagery in Wyoming

December 9, 2020

The importance of monitoring shrublands to detect and understand changes through time is increasingly recognized as critical to management. This research focuses on ecological change observed over 10 yr of field observation at 126 plots and over 35 yr of the Landsat archive in a shrubland ecosystem. Field data consisting of the fractional cover of shrubs, sagebrush, herbs, litter, and bare ground components were collected to be directly comparable to Landsat time-series predictions at an ecoregion level. We used these data to test three hypotheses. First, that precipitation and temperature govern changes in the proportions of shrubland components on an interannual time scale. Second, that longer-term component change is related to climate change. Finally, that change intensity varies by shrubland communities clustered by biophysical conditions. We found that the field observations and Landsat times-series predictions generally responded similarly to interannual variation in weather, chiefly driven by precipitation. Landsat times-series data provided a reasonable means of scaling up the findings of the field observations to a larger temporal and spatial window. The results of the analysis indicate that shrubland component change intensity significantly varies by biophysical clusters, and indicate a significant increase in the cover of shrubs and sagebrush in long-term monitoring plots between 2008 and 2017 and in the Landsat time-series data across the Wyoming Basin study area from 1985 to 2017 and from 2008 to 2017. Our results indicate that the Landsat time series can be used to answer critical questions regarding the influence of climate change and the suitability of management practices in shrubland ecosystems.

Publication Year 2020
Title Analyzing vegetation change in a sagebrush ecosystem using long-term field observations and Landsat imagery in Wyoming
DOI 10.1002/ecs2.3311
Authors Hua Shi, Collin Homer, Matthew B. Rigge, Kory Postma, George Z. Xian
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecosphere
Index ID 70224299
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center