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Departures of rangeland fractional component cover and land cover from landsat-based ecological potential in Wyoming USA

May 27, 2020

Monitoring rangelands by identifying the departure of contemporary conditions from long-term ecological potential allows for the disentanglement of natural biophysical gradients driving change from changes associated with land uses and other disturbance types. We developed maps of ecological potential (EP) for shrub, sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), perennial herbaceous, litter, and bare ground fractional cover in Wyoming, USA. EP maps correspond to the potential natural vegetation cover expected by environmental conditions in the absence of anthropogenic and natural disturbance as represented by the greenest and least disturbed period of the Landsat archive. EP was predicted using regression tree models with inputs of soil maps and spectral data associated with the 75th percentile of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index in the Landsat archive. We trained our EP models with 2015 component cover maps on ecologically intact sites with relatively lower bare ground than expected. We generated departure of vegetation cover by comparing the EP and 2015 fractional cover. The departures represent land cover change from potential land cover and/or within-state changes in 2015. Next, we converted EP and 2015 fractional cover maps into thematic land cover and evaluated departure to determine if it was great enough to result in land cover change. The 2015 conditions showed reduced shrub, sagebrush, litter, and perennial herbaceous cover and increased bare ground relative to EP. Known disturbances, such as energy development, fires, and vegetation treatments, are clearly visible on the departure maps, but not on EP component maps. The most frequent departure from EP land cover was shrubland conversion to grassland. Land cover departures can be explained only in small part by known disturbance, and instead are ostensibly related to climate and land management practices. These drivers result in land cover departures that broadened the ecotone between shrubland and grassland relative to EP.

Publication Year 2020
Title Departures of rangeland fractional component cover and land cover from landsat-based ecological potential in Wyoming USA
DOI 10.1016/j.rama.2020.03.009
Authors Matthew B. Rigge, Collin G. Homer, Hua Shi, Bruce Wylie
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Rangeland Ecology and Management
Index ID 70211626
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center