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Separating grazing and rainfall effects at regional scale using remote sensing imagery: A dynamic reference-cover method

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Bastin, G., Scarth, P., Chewings, V., Sparrow, A., Denham, R., Schmidt, M., O'Reagain, P. J., Shepherd, R. and Abbott, B. (2012) Separating grazing and rainfall effects at regional scale using remote sensing imagery: A dynamic reference-cover method. Remote Sensing of Environment, 121 . pp. 443-457. ISSN 0034-4257

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Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2012.02.021


Remote detection of management-related trend in the presence of inter-annual climatic variability in the rangelands is difficult. Minimally disturbed reference areas provide a useful guide, but suitable benchmarks are usually difficult to identify. We describe a method that uses a unique conceptual framework to identify reference areas from multitemporal sequences of ground cover derived from Landsat TM and ETM+ imagery. The method does not require ground-based reference sites nor GIS layers about management. We calculate a minimum ground cover image across all years to identify locations of most persistent ground cover in years of lowest rainfall. We then use a moving window approach to calculate the difference between the window's central pixel and its surrounding reference pixels. This difference estimates ground-cover change between successive below-average rainfall years, which provides a seasonally interpreted measure of management effects. We examine the approach's sensitivity to window size and to cover-index percentiles used to define persistence. The method successfully detected management-related change in ground cover in Queensland tropical savanna woodlands in two case studies: (1) a grazing trial where heavy stocking resulted in substantial decline in ground cover in small paddocks, and (2) commercial paddocks where wet-season spelling (destocking) resulted in increased ground cover. At a larger scale, there was broad agreement between our analysis of ground-cover change and ground-based land condition change for commercial beef properties with different a priori ratings of initial condition, but there was also some disagreement where changing condition reflected pasture composition rather than ground cover. We conclude that the method is suitably robust to analyse grazing effects on ground cover across the 1.3 x 10(6) km(2) of Queensland's rangelands. Crown Copyright (c) 2012 Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science
Subjects:Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Live Archive:10 Apr 2014 04:39
Last Modified:27 Sep 2021 03:19

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