Land (Apr 2013)

Using Remote Sensing to Quantify Vegetation Change and Ecological Resilience in a Semi-Arid System

  • Xia Cui,
  • Cerian Gibbes,
  • Jane Southworth,
  • Peter Waylen

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 2, no. 2
pp. 108 – 130


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This research extends upon land cover change studies by incorporating methodological approaches, which are compatible with heterogeneous ecosystems, are able to link landscape changes to system processes, such as climate change, and provide potential linkages to concepts of ecological resilience. The study region in southern Africa experienced a significant climatic shift in the 1970s, resulting in drier conditions. The state of these ecosystems and their response to such climatic shock is quantified in terms of vegetation amount and heterogeneity. We monitor these characteristics pre- and post-disturbance using a Landsat image series and examine the utility of continuous characterizations of land cover for measuring ecosystem resilience. Land cover change is evaluated using a mean-variance analysis in concert with a spatial persistence analysis. This investigation indicates that although the impact of the decreased precipitation is evident in the 1980s, recovery occurred by the 1990s and 2000s. We found the continuous methodological approach used holds potential for studying heterogeneous landscapes within a resilience framework.