Catching the Cheatgrass in the Act: Identifying the Movement of Cheatgrass in the Colorado National Monument

EarthzineDevelop Summer 2017, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session

Cheatgrass outlined with wild fire over Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) of Colorado National Monument. Image Credit: Colorado National Monument Ecological Forecasting Team

This article is a part of the NASA DEVELOP’s Summer 2017 Virtual Poster Session. For more articles like these, click here

Project Team: Colorado National Monument Ecological Forecasting

Team Location:åÊNASA Langley Research Center ‰ÛÒ Hampton, Virginia

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Authors:

Zac Peloquin

James Ficklin

Kayla Rini

Owen Cox

Mentors/Advisors:

Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA Langley Research Center)

Cheatgrass outlined with wild fire over Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) of Colorado National Monument. Image Credit: Colorado National Monument Ecological Forecasting Team

Cheatgrass outlined with wildfire over Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) of Colorado National Monument. Image Credit: Colorado National Monument Ecological Forecasting Team

Abstract:

Bromus tectorum, otherwise known as cheatgrass, is an invasive grass from Europe that has increased its presence all over the world by out-competing native grasses due to its adaptability and lifecycle. During the end of its lifecycle, typically occurring in the summer, its flammable remains often create the conditions for forest fires to start early in the season. This alters native wildlife’s previous response to wildfires and increases the overall frequency of fires. As a result, cheatgrass often disrupts the necessary recovery time for native wildlife after habitat destruction. This NASA DEVELOP project utilized Landsat 5 TM, Landsat 8 OLI and TIRS, Terra MODIS, and Sentinel-2 data to study the spread of cheatgrass throughout the Colorado National Monument and the surrounding area to determine locations at risk of being invaded by cheatgrass. The results of the study included historical and current cheatgrass population maps, multi-criteria evaluation (MCE) analysis, and forecasted cheatgrass spread. The MCE analysis assessed the factors and constraints that contribute to the vulnerability to cheatgrass invasion. The results from this project will assist the National Park Service in improving their monitoring and management efforts and help contribute to the prevention of cheatgrass in Colorado National Monument.

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