Expansion of Pinus L. (pinyon) and Juniperus L. (juniper) (P-J) trees into sagebrush (Artemisia L.) steppe communities can lead to negative effects on hydrology, loss of wildlife habitat, and a decrease in desirable understory vegetation. Tree reduction treatments are often implemented to mitigate these negative effects. In order to prioritize and effectively plan these treatments, rapid, accurate, and inexpensive methods are needed to estimate tree canopy cover at the landscape scale. We used object based image analysis (OBIA) software (Feature AnalystTM for ArcMap 10.1®, ENVI Feature Extraction®, and Trimble eCognition Developer 8.2®) to extract tree canopy cover using NAIP (National Agricultural Imagery Program) imagery. We then compared our extractions with ground measured tree canopy cover (crown diameter and line point) on 309 subplots across 44 sites in Utah. Extraction methods did not consistently over- or under-estimate ground measured P-J canopy cover except where tree cover was > 45%. Estimates of tree canopy cover using OBIA techniques were strongly correlated with estimates using the crown diameter method (r = 0.93 for ENVI, 0.91 for Feature Analyst, and 0.92 for eCognition). Tree cover estimates using OBIA techniques had lower correlations with tree cover measurements using the line-point method (r = 0.85 for ENVI, 0.83 for Feature Analyst, and 0.83 for eCognition). Results from this study suggest that OBIA techniques may be used to extract P-J tree canopy cover accurately and inexpensively. All software packages accurately evaluated accurately extracted P-J canopy cover from NAIP imagery when imagery was not blurred and when P-J cover was not mixed with Amelanchier alnifolia (Utah serviceberry) and Quercus gambelii (Gambel's oak), which are shrubs with similar spectral values as P-J.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





Object-based image analysis, canopy cover, National Agriculture Imagery Program, eCognition, Feature Analyst, ENVI Feature Extraction