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Open Access Publications from the University of California

California’s Dynamic Landscape: Monitoring Ecological Response to Human Impact and Drought Using Satellite Imagery

  • Author(s): Willis, Katherine Sarah
  • Advisor(s): Gillespie, Thomas W
  • MacDonald, Glen M
  • et al.
Abstract

Space-borne remote sensing is a rapidly evolving field and is exceptionally useful for monitoring landscape dynamics. The increasing impact of humans on natural ecosystems via land use change and climate change make ecological monitoring vital to environmental health. Human population levels are causing rapid changes in land cover and development, which in turn puts increasing stress on the natural landscape. Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have accelerated climate change causing varied unexpected changes to vegetation. The effects of increased frequency and intensity of drought in the western United States is an example of this which can be monitored using satellite imagery.

This dissertation assesses how these human-induced threats are driving landscape changes and the application of remote sensing to assess the ecological impacts. To address these objectives, remote sensing is applied to natural resource monitoring for effective conservation-based land management (Chapter 2). These methods are then applied to various research, including monitoring ecological status of southern California National Parks (Chapter 3), assessment of the effects of drought on southern California native plants (Chapter 4) and on browning over California vegetation zones (Chapter 5). The remote sensing-based analyses utilize several best practice methods such as supervised classification and time series statistics to examine landscape changes throughout California. Outputs include a standardized protocol to determine future ecological conservation management actions, status reports on current and historical land use, publically available spatial datasets, and assessment of the California landscape and native species in response to 20th Century drought conditions.

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