Differing Fine-Scale Responses of Vegetation and Bare Soil to Moisture Variation in a Pinyon-Juniper Woodland Underlie Landscape-Scale Responses Observed from Remote Sensing

  •  D. A. Devitt    
  •  B. Bird    
  •  L. Fenstermaker    
  •  M. D. Petrie    


Pinyon juniper woodlands in the American southwest face an uncertain ecological future with regard to climate altered precipitation. Although satellite remote sensing will be relied upon to assess the overall health of these plant communities more fine scaled information is needed to elucidate the mechanisms shaping the broader scaled regional assessments. We conducted a study to assess the NDVI response at the plant canopy level (insitu sensors placed over the canopies) of three tree and one shrub species to changes in precipitation, reference evapotranspiration and soil volumetric water content. Landsat data was used to compare stand integrated and satellite NDVI values. We also provided supplemental water in the amount of 10.85 cm over the study period to additional trees and shrubs which also had insitu NDVI sensors placed over their canopies. NDVI at the canopy level separated statistically by species and when contrasted with bare soil (p<0.001). Spring early summer dry down events were inversely related to increasing ETref-precipitation with a steeper dry down slope in the first year associated with no rainfall occurring in May and June. All three-tree species did not show any significant difference in canopy NDVI based on supplemental water, however the shrub species did reveal a significant response to water (p<0.001). Although all of the three-tree species revealed a one-month period in which they responded to precipitation in July of the first year after 11.2 cm of precipitation, no immediate (day of or next day) response was observed to precipitation or supplemental water events. Snowberry was unique in its NDVI response during the spring green up period in the second year revealing a highly linear shift over a 40-day period with a clear separation between treatments (p<0.001) with those plants receiving supplemental water having a higher more positive slope. Landsat NDVI values revealed an inverse sinusoidal relationship with ETref-precipitation (R2=0.59 p=0.012). Landsat values (0.19+/- 0.01) were found to have no significant difference with bare soil NDVI (0.17+/- 0.01) but were significantly different from all four tree and shrub species. Integrated NDVI based on sensor weighted % cover estimates (0.37+/-0.03) were nearly double Landsat values (0.19+/-0.01). Both NDVI values of pinyon pine and Utah juniper were found to be linear correlated with Landsat NDVI in the second Year (R2>0.75, p<0.001). Multiple regression analysis revealed that 95% of the variation in Landsat NDVI in the second year could be accounted for based on bare soil NDVI and pinyon pine NDVI (p<0.001). et al., NDVI interspace (bare soil) of pinyon juniper woodlands dominated the nature of the Landsat curve. Our results demonstrate the value of ground sensors to help fill the gap between what can be inferred at the forest canopy level and what is occurring at the plant level.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1927-0488
  • ISSN(Online): 1927-0496
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: quarterly

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