, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 141-157
Date: 21 Dec 2010

Mapping changes in tidal wetland vegetation composition and pattern across a salinity gradient using high spatial resolution imagery

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Detailed vegetation mapping of wetlands, both natural and restored, can offer valuable information about vegetation diversity and community structure and provides the means for examining vegetation change over time. We mapped vegetation at six tidal marshes (two natural, four restored) in the San Francisco Estuary, CA, USA, between 2003 and 2004 using detailed vegetation field surveys and high spatial-resolution color-infrared aerial photography. Vegetation classes were determined by performing hierarchical agglomerative clustering on the field data collected from each tidal marsh. Supervised classification of the CIR photography resulted in vegetation class mapping accuracies ranging from 70 to 92%; 10 out of 12 classification accuracies were above 80%, demonstrating the potential to map emergent wetland vegetation. The number of vegetation classes decreased with salinity, and increased with size and age. In general, landscape diversity, as measured by the Shannon’s diversity index, also decreased with salinity, with an exception for the most saline site, a newly restored marsh. Vegetation change between years is evident, but the differences across sites in composition and pattern were larger than change within sites over two growing seasons.