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Remote Sens. 2015, 7(1), 342-359; doi:10.3390/rs70100342

Remote Sensing of Sonoran Desert Vegetation Structure and Phenology with Ground-Based LiDAR

1
Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science Center, Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, 2255 N. Gemini Dr., Building #4, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, USA
2
Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science Center, P.O. Box 5614, Building 56, Suite 150, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA
3
School of Natural Resources, University of Arizona, 6710 W. El Camino del Cerro, Tucson, AZ 85745, USA
4
Geological Survey, Western Geographic Science Center, 520 N Park Ave., #111, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
5
School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona, P.O. Box 210076, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Arnon Karnieli and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 29 May 2014 / Accepted: 2 December 2014 / Published: 30 December 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Land Degradation in Drylands)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [2285 KB, uploaded 30 December 2014]   |  

Abstract

Long-term vegetation monitoring efforts have become increasingly important for understanding ecosystem response to global change. Many traditional methods for monitoring can be infrequent and limited in scope. Ground-based LiDAR is one remote sensing method that offers a clear advancement to monitor vegetation dynamics at high spatial and temporal resolution. We determined the effectiveness of LiDAR to detect intra-annual variability in vegetation structure at a long-term Sonoran Desert monitoring plot dominated by cacti, deciduous and evergreen shrubs. Monthly repeat LiDAR scans of perennial plant canopies over the course of one year had high precision. LiDAR measurements of canopy height and area were accurate with respect to total station survey measurements of individual plants. We found an increase in the number of LiDAR vegetation returns following the wet North American Monsoon season. This intra-annual variability in vegetation structure detected by LiDAR was attributable to a drought deciduous shrub Ambrosia deltoidea, whereas the evergreen shrub Larrea tridentata and cactus Opuntia engelmannii had low variability. Benefits of using LiDAR over traditional methods to census desert plants are more rapid, consistent, and cost-effective data acquisition in a high-resolution, 3-dimensional context. We conclude that repeat LiDAR measurements can be an effective method for documenting ecosystem response to desert climatology and drought over short time intervals and at detailed-local spatial scale. View Full-Text
Keywords: Lidar; ground-based Lidar; terrestrial laser scanning (TLS); creosote; prickly pear; triangle-leaf bursage; drought; global change; monitoring Lidar; ground-based Lidar; terrestrial laser scanning (TLS); creosote; prickly pear; triangle-leaf bursage; drought; global change; monitoring
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Sankey, J.B.; Munson, S.M.; Webb, R.H.; Wallace, C.S.A.; Duran, C.M. Remote Sensing of Sonoran Desert Vegetation Structure and Phenology with Ground-Based LiDAR. Remote Sens. 2015, 7, 342-359.

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