Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) presence and proliferation on former surface coal mines in Eastern USA

Biological Invasions
By: , and 



Invasive plants threaten native plant communities. Surface coal mines in the Appalachian Mountains are among the most disturbed landscapes in North America, but information about land cover characteristics of Appalachian mined lands is lacking. The invasive shrub autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) occurs on these sites and interferes with ecosystem recovery by outcompeting native trees, thus inhibiting re-establishment of the native woody-plant community. We analyzed Landsat 8 satellite imagery to describe autumn olive’s distribution on post-mined lands in southwestern Virginia within the Appalachian coalfield. Eight images from April 2013 through January 2015 served as input data. Calibration and validation data obtained from high-resolution aerial imagery were used to develop a land cover classification model that identified areas where autumn olive was a primary component of land cover. Results indicate that autumn olive cover was sufficiently dense to enable detection on approximately 12.6 % of post-mined lands within the study area. The classified map had user’s and producer’s accuracies of 85.3 and 78.6 %, respectively, for the autumn olive coverage class. Overall accuracy was assessed in reference to an independent validation dataset at 96.8 %. Autumn olive was detected more frequently on mines disturbed prior to 2003, the last year of known plantings, than on lands disturbed by more recent mining. These results indicate that autumn olive growing on reclaimed coal mines in Virginia and elsewhere in eastern USA can be mapped using Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager imagery; and that autumn olive occurrence is a significant landscape vegetation feature on former surface coal mines in the southwestern Virginia segment of the Appalachian coalfield.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) presence and proliferation on former surface coal mines in Eastern USA
Series title Biological Invasions
DOI 10.1007/s10530-016-1271-6
Volume 19
Issue 1
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 17 p.
First page 179
Last page 195
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