Plant phenology: Taking the pulse of rangelands

TitlePlant phenology: Taking the pulse of rangelands
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsBrowning DM, Snyder KA, Herrick JE
Start Page129
Date Published06/2019
ARIS Log Number357860
Keywordsgrasslands, invasive species, management tools, monitoring, phenocams, plant phenology

Plant phenology—the timing of seasonal life cycle events—is a primary control on ecosystem productivity and an integrative indicator of species’ responses to the environment. Plant phenology data can be used to design better management systems by adjusting the timing of grazing, fire and other disturbances relative to the growth stage of key species and in planning restoration activities such as herbicide applications or targeted grazing. Repeated observations needed to understand phenology can be collected at various spatial scales with a variety of methods from field-based observations of individual plants to broad-scale observations of landscape “greenness” from satellite imagery. Digital cameras mounted on towers (phenocams) provide a more cost-effective way to collect data to capture vegetation “greenness.” Phenocam greenness values are used to generate plant canopy- and community-level metrics in real-time for a fraction of the cost of on-the-ground field observations. Phenocam greenness metrics also serve to link plant- or community-scale phenology observations collected in the field with those from satellite remote sensing and can reveal the plant species or functional groups contributing to satellite NDVI. Phenocam image time series also help interpret rangeland monitoring data by placing data in the context of inter- and intra-annual variability.