Biological Invasions

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 315–326 | Cite as

Seeing the forest for the invasives: mapping buckthorn in the Oak Openings

  • Richard H. Becker
  • Kirk A. Zmijewski
  • Todd Crail
Original Paper


Landsat TM and ETM+ satellite images from 2001 to 2011 were used to map the extent and change of the invasive shrubs common and glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus and Rhamnus cathartica) at Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve (IPSNP), and throughout Oak Openings, a 1,500 km2 region, located in NW Ohio, USA and SE Michigan near Lake Erie. In the Oak Openings, buckthorn directly threatens native biodiversity and habitat health of this globally rare ecosystem. Buckthorn that forms as dense shrub thicket in the understory is often obscured from satellite view by other canopy and is not spectrally dissimilar enough to be characterized using multispectral images. To address this, time series tasseled cap greenness images of land surface areas dominated by buckthorn thicket (which exhibit early leaf-out, late senescence) was used to identify areas covered by thicket with a heterogeneous background. A time series of vegetation index values was calculated from 49 Landsat images and combined with in-situ observations to define the land surface phenology of buckthorn thicket and other vegetation types. The phenological differences among land surfaces dominated by distinct vegetation types in the Oak Openings Region were used to map the extent of buckthorn thicket using a supervised classification method. Buckthorn thicket was identified in 0.43 % of the classified pixels (940 ha) in the 2007–2011 imagery and in 0.31 % (690 ha) of the 2001–2006 images. A Kappa test of the 2007–2011 classification yielded a value of 0.73 with 88 % overall accuracy of presence or absence of thicket based on 60 samples throughout the Oak Openings. The areal extent of buckthorn thicket increased by 39 % (255 ha) in the study area over the time period from 2001 to 2011.


Remote sensing Buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica Frangula alnus Multi-temporal Phenology Invasive species Landsat Oak Openings 



This research was funded by the through the Ohio Lake Erie Commission (OLEC) and the Lake Erie Protection Fund (LEPF) Small Grant #416-11. The LEPF is supported by the citizens of Ohio through their purchase of the Lake Erie License Plate. We thank both Toledo Area Metroparks and Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve for allowing us access to their property to conduct this research, and Jonathon Sanders for field assistance. This is contribution #2012-10 from the Lake Erie Research Center.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard H. Becker
    • 1
  • Kirk A. Zmijewski
    • 1
  • Todd Crail
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of ToledoToledoUSA

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