Monitoring the status of forests and rangelands in the Western United States using ecosystem performance anomalies

International Journal of Remote Sensing
By: , and 



The effects of land management and disturbance on ecosystem performance (i.e. biomass production) are often confounded by those of weather and site potential. The current study overcomes this issue by calculating the difference between actual and expected ecosystem performance (EEP) to generate ecosystem performance anomalies (EPA). This study aims to delineate and quantify average EPA from 2000–2009 within the Greater Platte and Upper Colorado River Basins, USA. Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) images averaged over the growing season (GSN) served as a proxy of actual ecosystem performance. Yearly EEP was determined with rule-based piecewise regression tree models of abiotic data (climate, soils, elevation, etc.), independently created for each land cover. EPA were calculated as the residuals of the EEP to GSN relationship, and characterized as normal performing, underperforming, and overperforming at the 90% confidence level. Validation revealed that EPA values were related to biomass production (R2 = 0.56, P = 0.02) and likely to the proportion of biomass removed by livestock in the Nebraska Sandhills. Overall, 60.6% of the study area was (normal) performing near its EEP, 3.0% was severely underperforming, 5.0% was highly overperforming, and the remainder was slightly underperforming or overperforming. Generally, disturbances such as fires, floods, and insect damage, in addition to high grazing intensity, result in a negative EPA. Conversely, mature stands and appropriate management often result in positive EPA values. This method provides information critical to land managers to evaluate the appropriateness of previous management practices and restoration efforts and quantify disturbance impacts. Results are at a scale sufficient for many of the large management units of the region and for locating areas needing further investigation. Applications of EPA data to monitoring invasive species, grazing impacts, and vulnerability to plant community shifts have been suggested by land management professionals.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Monitoring the status of forests and rangelands in the Western United States using ecosystem performance anomalies
Series title International Journal of Remote Sensing
DOI 10.1080/01431161.2013.772311
Volume 34
Issue 11
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Description 20 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title International Journal of Remote Sensing
First page 4049
Last page 4068
Country United States
State Arizona;Colorado;Kansas;Nebraska;New Mexico;South Dakota;Utah;Wyoming
Other Geospatial Greater Platte;Upper Colorado River Basin
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