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A monitoring toolkit for banksia woodlands: Comparison of different scale methods to measure recovery of vegetation after fire

Brundrett, M., van Dongen, R., Huntley, B., Tay, N., Longman, V. and Horning, N. (2018) A monitoring toolkit for banksia woodlands: Comparison of different scale methods to measure recovery of vegetation after fire. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation, 5 (1). pp. 33-54.

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Here, we compare the efficiency and accuracy of remote sensing and plot-based methods for measuring vegetation cover for the understory and canopy of banksia woodland in an urban area of Western Australia. Methods compared were visual estimation, foliage cover computation from photographs, satellite imagery and aerial photographs. Observations and images from 1 m2, 100 m2 and 625 m2 quadrats measured cover of small plants, understory plants and trees respectively. Aerial photography and satellite imagery allowed the number, height and cover of trees to be estimated in 625 m2 and 1 ha plots. The accuracy of methods was compared using a 28 month time series commencing before and after an intense bushfire that removed all foliage cover. Directly comparable methods were in close agreement and in combination allowed plant recovery to be quantified in great detail. Visual estimation of cover in the field was time-consuming but necessary to measure the contribution of individual species. Visual estimates from 1 m2 downward photos allowed functional groups of plants to be measured. The number of green pixels selected manually in photographs confirmed that cover calculated from ground-based photographs using algorithms was accurate, except when cover was very low. We developed a new algorithm for computing cover from photographs that was accurate at low cover (Gperc). Canopy cover estimation by algorithm from upward photographs was subject to more errors, requiring exclusion of some images. Landsat satellite images allowed the impacts of severe drought and previous fires to be identified against a background of relatively consistent seasonal variations since 1988. Aerial photographs from 1953 onwards showed gradual recolonisation by banksia woodland trees over 60 years following tree felling. These methods provide a toolkit for monitoring vegetation recovery after disturbance and baseline data for monitoring banksia woodland. This toolkit should also be suitable for most other plant communities.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Copyright: © 2018 The Authors.
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