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Detecting the influence of best management practices on vegetation near ephemeral streams with Landsat data

January 1, 2014

Various best management practices (BMPs) have been implemented on rangelands with the goals of controlling nonpoint source pollution, reducing the impact of livestock in ecologically important riparian areas, and improving grazing distribution. Providing off-stream water sources to livestock in pastures, cross-fencing, and rotational grazing are common rangeland BMPs that have demonstrated success in drawing livestock grazing pressure away from streams. We evaluated the effects of rangeland BMP implementation with six commercial-scale pastures in the northern mixed-grass prairie. Four pastures received a BMP suite consisting of off-stream water, cross-fencing, and deferred-rotation grazing, and two pastures did not receive BMPs. We hypothesized that the BMPs increased the quantity of riparian vegetation cover relative to the conditions in these pastures during the pre-BMP period and to the two pastures that did not receive BMPs. We used a series of 30-m Landsat normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) images to track the spatial and temporal changes (1984–2010, n = 24) in vegetation cover, to which NDVI has been well correlated. Validation indicated that the remotely sensed signal from in-channel vegetation was representative of ground conditions. The BMP suite was associated with a 15% increase in the in-channel NDVI (0–30 m from stream centerline) and 18% increase in the riparian NDVI (30–180 m from stream center line). Conversely, the in-channel and riparian NDVI of non-BMP pastures declined 30% and 18% over the study period. The majority of change occurred within 2 yr of BMP implementation. The patterns of in-channel NDVI among pastures suggested that BMP implementation likely altered grazing distribution by decreasing the preferential use of riparian and in-channel areas. We demonstrated that satellite imagery time series are useful in retrospectively evaluating the efficacy of conservation practices, providing critical information to guide adaptive management and decision makers.

Publication Year 2014
Title Detecting the influence of best management practices on vegetation near ephemeral streams with Landsat data
DOI 10.2111/REM-D-12-00185.1
Authors Matthew B. Rigge, Alexander Smart, Bruce K. Wylie, Kendall de Van Kamp
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Rangeland Ecology and Management
Index ID 70188320
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center