Remote sensing analysis to quantify change in woodland canopy cover on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Arizona (1935 vs. 2017)

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Abstract

Since the late 1800s, pinyon–juniper woodland across the western U.S. has increased in density and areal extent and encroached into former grassland areas. The San Carlos Apache Tribe wants to gain qualitative and quantitative information on the historical conditions of their tribal woodlands to use as a baseline for restoration efforts. At the San Carlos Apache Reservation, in east-central Arizona, large swaths of woodlands containing varying mixtures of juniper (Juniperus spp.), pinyon (Pinus spp.) and evergreen oak (Quercus spp.) are culturally important to the Tribe and are a focus for restoration. To determine changes in canopy cover, we developed image analysis techniques to monitor tree and large shrub cover using 1935 and 2017 aerial imagery and compared results over the 82-year interval. Results showed a substantial increase in the canopy cover of the former savannas, and encroachment (mostly juniper) into the former grasslands of Big Prairie. The Tribe is currently engaged in converting juniper woodland back into an open savanna, more characteristic of assumed pre-reservation conditions for that area. Our analysis shows areas on Bee Flat that, under the Tribe’s active restoration efforts, have returned woodland canopy cover to levels roughly analogous to that measured in 1935.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Remote sensing analysis to quantify change in woodland canopy cover on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Arizona (1935 vs. 2017)
Series title Land
DOI 10.3390/land10040393
Volume 10
Issue 4
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher MDPI
Contributing office(s) Western Geographic Science Center
Description 393, 22 p.
Country United States
State Arizona
Other Geospatial San Carlos Apache Reservation
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