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Quantifying drought’s influence on moist soil seed vegetation in California’s Central Valley through time-series remote sensing

April 29, 2020

Californias Central Valley, USA is a critical component of the Pacific Flyway despite loss of more than 90% of its wetlands. Moist soil seed (MSS) wetland plants are now produced by mimicking seasonal flooding in managed wetlands to provide an essential food resource for waterfowl. Managers need MSS plant area and productivity estimates to support waterfowl conservation, yet this remains unknown at the landscape scale. Also the effects of recent drought on MSS plants have not been quantified. We generated Landsat-derived estimates of extents and productivity (seed yield or its proxy, the green chlorophyll index) of major MSS plants including watergrass (Echinochloa crusgalli) and smartweed (Polygonum spp.) (WGSW), and swamp timothy (Crypsis schoenoides) (ST) in all Central Valley managed wetlands from 20072017. We tested the effects of water year, land ownership and region on plant area and productivity with a multifactor nested analysis of variance. For the San Joaquin Valley we explored the association between water year and water supply, and we developed metrics to support management decisions. MSS plant area maps were based on a support vector machine classification of Landsat phenology metrics (2017 map overall accuracy: 89%). ST productivity maps were created with a linear regression model of seed yield (n=68, R2 = 0.53, normalized RMSE = 10.5%). The Central Valley-wide estimated area for ST in 2017 was 32,369 ha 2,524 ha (95% C.I.), and 13,012 ha 1,384 ha for WGSW. Mean ST seed yield ranged from 577 kg/ha in the Delta Basin to 365 kg/ha in the San Joaquin Basin. WGSW area and ST seed yield decreased while ST area increased in critical drought years compared to normal water years (Scheffes test, p<0.05). Greatest ST area increases occurred in the Sacramento Valley (~75%). Voluntary water deliveries increased in normal water years, and ST seed yield increased with water supply. Z-scores of ST seed yield can be used to evaluate wetland performance and aid resource allocation decisions. Updated maps will support habitat monitoring, conservation planning and water management in future years, which are likely to face greater uncertainty in water availability with climate change.

Publication Year 2020
Title Quantifying drought’s influence on moist soil seed vegetation in California’s Central Valley through time-series remote sensing
DOI 10.1002/eap.2153
Authors Kristin B. Byrd, Austen Lorenz, James Anderson, Cynthia Wallace, Kara Moore-O'Leary, Jennifer Isola, Ricardo Ortega, Matt Reiter
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Applications
Index ID 70214673
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Geographic Science Center