As part of a cooperative project between the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management, changes in albedo (percentage of light reflected from the ground) were calculated and mapped from Landsat images for an area in northwestern Arizona for three periods: August 26, 1977, to September 3, 1979; September 3, 1979, to August 28, 1980; and August 26, 1977, to August 28, 1980. The mapped albedo changes were field checked in April 1981. Decreases in albedo were associated with increases in vegetation, primarily the flush of annual vegetation and the regrowth of vegetation in chained areas and sites of past fires. Increases in albedo were due to recent fires.
Continuous monitoring of changes in albedo using current, rather than historical, Landsat images can provide the Bureau of Land Management with a means of monitoring vegetation growth, determining areas of high fire potential, and more efficiently deploying of field personnel to sites where severe changes are occuring in the quality of the land and vegetation resources. For example, an albedo change could be an indication of encroachment by an invader species. Similarly, it could indicate where rangeland is being lost to desertification.