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Evaluating the Impacts of Continuous and Rotational Grazing on Tallgrass Prairie Landscape Using High-Spatial-Resolution Imagery

1
State Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Science, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
2
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
3
Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA
4
Department of Geography, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA
5
USDA-ARS Grazinglands Research Laboratory, El Reno, OK 73036, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Agronomy 2019, 9(5), 238; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy9050238
Received: 1 April 2019 / Revised: 4 May 2019 / Accepted: 7 May 2019 / Published: 9 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland Management for Sustainable Agroecosystems)
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Abstract

This study evaluated the impacts of different grazing treatments (continuous (C) and rotational (R) grazing) on tallgrass prairie landscape, using high-spatial-resolution aerial imagery (1-m at RGB and near-infrared bands) of experimental C and R pastures within two replicates (Rep A and Rep B) in the southern Great Plains (SGP) of the United States. The imagery was acquired by the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) during the agricultural growing season of selected years (2010, 2013, 2015, and 2017) in the continental United States. Land cover maps were generated by combining visual interpolation, a support vector machine, and a decision tree classifier. Landscape metrics (class area, patch number, percentage of landscape, and fragmentation indices) were calculated from the FRAGSTATS (a computer software program designed to compute a wide variety of landscape metrics for categorical map patterns) based on land cover results. Both the metrics and land cover results were used to analyze landscape dynamics in the experiment pastures. Results showed that both grass and shrubs of different pastures differed largely in the same year and had significant annual dynamics controlled by climate. High stocking intensity delayed grass growth. A large proportion of bare soil occurred in sub-paddocks of rotational grazing that were just grazed or under grazing. Rep A experienced rapid shrub encroachment, with a large proportion of shrub at the beginning of the experiment. Shrub may occupy 41% of C and 15% of R in Rep A by 2030, as revealed by the linear regression analysis of shrub encroachment. In contrast, shrub encroachment was not significant in Rep B, which only had a small number of shrub patches at the beginning of the experiment. This result indicates that the shrub encroachment is mainly controlled by the initial status of the pastures instead of grazing management. However, the low temporal resolution of the NAIP imagery (one snapshot in two or three years) limits our comparison of the continuous and rotational grazing at the annual scale. Future studies need to combine NAIP imagery with other higher temporal resolution imagery (e.g., WorldView), in order to better evaluate the interannual variabilities of grass productivity and shrub encroachment. View Full-Text
Keywords: tallgrass prairie landscape; grazing management; classification; shrub encroachment; Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) tallgrass prairie landscape; grazing management; classification; shrub encroachment; Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)
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Ma, S.; Zhou, Y.; Gowda, P.H.; Chen, L.; Starks, P.J.; Steiner, J.L.; Neel, J.P.S. Evaluating the Impacts of Continuous and Rotational Grazing on Tallgrass Prairie Landscape Using High-Spatial-Resolution Imagery. Agronomy 2019, 9, 238.

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