The University of Arizona

Short-term monitoring of rangeland forage conditions with AVHRR imagery.

D.P. Thoma, D.W. Bailey, D.S. Long, G.A. Nielsen, M.P. Henry, M.C. Breneman, C. Montagne


A study was conducted to determine the potential of using Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) imagery to monitor short-term changes in rangeland forage conditions on a regional scale. Forage biomass and nitrogen concentration were estimated at 6 study sites throughout a typical grazing season (April to October). Study sites were located in northern and southern Montana in areas classified as foothills grassland and shortgrass prairie. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) values from AVHRR imagery (1 km pixels) were used to predict live biomass, dead standing biomass, total biomass, nitrogen (N) concentration and standing N. Values of the NDVI were correlated (r > 0.4, P < 0.01) to live, dead, and total biomass estimates and standing N, but were not correlated to N concentration (r = 0.04, P = 0.8). Relationships between NDVI and vegetative attributes were similar (P > 0.05) for all 6 study sites, which indicates that NDVI could be used to predict forage abundance at multiple locations and at variable dates. Using simple linear regression, NDVI accounted for 63% of the variation in live and total biomass, 18% of the variation in dead biomass, 66% of the variation in standing N, but < 1% of the variation in N concentration. The NDVI obtained from AVHRR imagery was a good predictor of forage abundance as measured by live, dead and total biomass as well as standing N, but it was not related to forage quality as measured by N or crude protein concentration. On a regional basis, land managers could use AVHRR-NDVI values to identify areas with high or low levels of forage abundance that may result from factors such as drought, variable precipitation patterns, or uneven grazing.



remote sensing;hill grasslands;satellite imagery;multispectral imagery;advanced very high resolution radiometer;short-grass praire;range condition;estimation;nitrogen content;prairies;biomass;seasonal variation;Montana;forage

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