Drone-Based Vegetation Assessment in Arid Ecosystems
Proof of long-term vegetation change in arid rangelands is often insufficient to influence policy, even when the change is clear to ecologists. Drones provide a way to collect unbiased evidence of plant spatiotemporal distribution at a dramatically reduced cost for the scales needed in these habitats. Assessment of phytomass spatial distribution by drone has become a routine, but further analysis requires advanced skills in data collection and post-flight processing. Accurate assessment of phytomass temporal change will require protocols to be developed for data collection and analysis. Biodiversity assessment by drone is unreliable, but there is potential for assessing phytomass change within and among taxonomic groups in arid rangelands, by repeatedly sampling areas in which perennial plants have been classified manually.
KeywordsArid environments Unmanned aerial vehicle Grazing
I dearly thank my colleagues Tamer Khafaga and Greg Simkins of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve for their invaluable support and advice. I also thank Zayed University for financial support.
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