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Mapping changes to vegetation pattern in a restoring wetland: Finding pattern metrics that are consistent across spatial scale and time  [2011]

Kelly, Maggi Tuxen, Karin A. Stralberg, Diana

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Tidal salt marshes in the San Francisco Estuary region display heterogeneous vegetation patterns that influence wetland function and provide adequate habitat for native or endangered wildlife. In addition to analyzing the extent of vegetation, monitoring the dynamics of vegetation pattern within restoring wetlands can offer valuable information about the restoration process. Pattern metrics, derived from classified remotely sensed imagery, have been used to measure composition and configuration of patches and landscapes, but they can be unpredictable across scales, and inconsistent across time. We sought to identify pattern metrics that are consistent across spatial scale and time – and thus robust measures of vegetation and habitat configuration – for a restored tidal marsh in the San Francisco Bay, CA, USA. We used high-resolution (20cm) remotely sensed color infrared imagery to map vegetation pattern over 2 years, and performed a multi-scale analysis of derived vegetation pattern metrics. We looked at the influence on metrics of changes in grain size through resampling and changes in minimum mapping unit (MMU) through smoothing. We examined composition, complexity, connectivity and heterogeneity metrics, focusing on perennial pickleweed (Sarcocornia pacifica), a dominant marsh plant. At our site, pickleweed patches grew larger, more irregularly shaped, and closely spaced over time, while the overall landscape became more diverse. Of the two scale factor
s examined, grain size was more consistent than MMU in terms of identifying relative change in composition and configuration of wetland marsh vegetation over time. Most metrics exhibited unstable behavior with larger MMUs. With small MMUs, most metrics were consistent across grain sizes, from fine (e.g. 0.16m²) to relatively large (e.g. 16m²) pixel sizes. Scale relationships were more variable at the landcover class level than at the landscape level (across all classes). This information may be useful to applied restoration practitioners, and adds to our general understanding of vegetation change in a restoring marsh.

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Ecological indicators

ISSN : 1470-160X

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