Utilization of historic aerial photography to track long-term vegetation response to rangeland treatments

TitleUtilization of historic aerial photography to track long-term vegetation response to rangeland treatments
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsRango A., Buonopane M., Huenneke L., Havstad K, Maxwell C.J., Gonzalez A.L., Herrick JE
Conference Name87th Annual Meeting, Ecological Society of America
Date PublishedAugust 4-9, 2002
Conference LocationTucson, AZ
ARIS Log Number139732
AbstractDuring the past 100 years, semiarid grasslands in the Southwest have been heavily invaded by shrubs. To combat shrub invasion, a variety of rangeland remediation treatments have been conducted at the Jornada Experimental Range and the New Mexico State University Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center since the early 1900s; a maximum number of treatments were applied between 1933 and 1942, corresponding to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) activities in southern New Mexico at that time. Despite the extensive nature of treatment application, very little detailed documentation remained on file after 1942 when the CCC was disbanded. We have had to rely on aerial photography missions started in the mid-1930s to document the extent, pattern, and persistence of the land cover treatments. The discovery of any remaining conventional file records of the treatments greatly increases our ability to interpret the aerial photography over the Jornada Basin. The persistence of visible treatments over time and changes in vegetation character in association with treatments allow assessment of treatment effectiveness. Supplemental vegetation measurements in these treatment (and control) areas today provide much information about ecosystem response and stability over time. Examples of aerial photography monitoring include: lagomorph, exclusion/shrub removal plots, cleared strips on creosote-dominated bajada slopes, snakeweed eradication plots, water ponding dikes for increasing forage growth, herbicide treatments in controlling mesquite, patterns of shrub invasion, and even discovery of totally undocumented remediation treatments in remote locations. The combination of aerial photography, historical data records, and current ground-based field measurements allows us to draw conclusions about long-term responses of vegetation communities which would not be possible with just one type of these data alone. The aerial photography interactive database for the Jornada Basin is under development and, currently, has over 3,000 images.