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Temporal monitoring of groundcover change using digital cameras

Zerger, A., Gobbett, D., Crossman, C., Valencia, P., Wark, T., Davies, M., Handcock, R.N. and Stol, J. (2012) Temporal monitoring of groundcover change using digital cameras. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 19 . pp. 266-275.

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Environmental sensor networks (ESN) provide new opportunities for improving our understanding of ecological change. Their strength is an ability to acquire data at high temporal frequencies and in remote locations (autonomously). This paper describes the development of a method for detecting change in groundcover vegetation as a response to grazing exclusion (kangaroo grazing) using visible wavelength digital photography within an environmental sensor network. The study was conducted over six months with imagery captured every 90 minutes and post-processed using supervised image processing techniques. Synchronous manual assessments of groundcover change were also conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the automated procedures. Results show that for particular cover classes such as live vegetation and bare ground, there is excellent temporal concordance between automated and manual methods. However, litter classes were difficult to consistently differentiate. The paper describes the operational reliability of the ESN, its ability to reliably monitor ground cover change through a range of environmental extremes, and examines limitations of the methodology. A key limitation is the inability of the method to effectively deal with vertical groundcover change. This indicates that species composition and plant traits play an important role in driving future experimental designs. The research is an early attempt to develop an operational autonomous vegetation monitoring system for assessing the effectiveness of ecological restoration activities.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: CSIRO
Copyright: (c) 2012 CSIRO
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