Using remote sensing to quantify ecosystem site potential community structure and deviation in the Great Basin, United States

Ecological Indicators
By: , and 



The semi-arid Great Basin region in the Northwest U.S. is impacted by a suite of change agents including fire, grazing, and climate variability to which native vegetation can have low resilience and resistance. Assessing ecosystem condition in relation to these change agents is difficult due to a lack of a consistent and objective Site Potential (SP) information of the conditions biophysically possible at each site. Our objectives were to assess and quantify patterns in ecosystem condition, based on actual fractional component cover and a SP map and to evaluate drivers of change. We used long-term 90th percentile Landsat NDVI(Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) and biophysical variables to produce a map of SP. Ecosystem condition was assessed using two methods, first we integrated fractional components into an index which was regressed against SP. Regression confidence intervals were used to segment the study area into normal, over-, and under-performing relative to SP. Next, the relationships between SP and fractional component cover produced SP expected component cover, from which we mapped the actual cover deviation. Much of the study area is within the range of conditions expected by the SP model, but degraded conditions are more common than those above SP expectations. We found that shrub cover deviation is more positive at higher elevation, while herbaceous cover deviation has the opposite pattern, supporting the hypothesis that more resistant and resilient sites are less likely to change from the shrub dominated legacy. Another key finding was that regions with significant annual herbaceous invasions tend to have lower than expected bare ground and shrub cover.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Using remote sensing to quantify ecosystem site potential community structure and deviation in the Great Basin, United States
Series title Ecological Indicators
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.09.037
Volume 96
Issue 1
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Description 16 p.
First page 516
Last page 531
Country United States
Other Geospatial Great Basin
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