Remote sensing of the environment has become an effective and useful research approach applied across a wide range of scientific and professional disciplines. Generally remote sensing is used to evaluate patterns and processes at broad spatio-temporal scales, such as classifying landscape vegetation patterns or for creating digital surface models, however, there are increasing opportunities to expand the use of remotely sensed information to a wider range of applications at variable spatial and temporal scales. In the field of plant seedling and germination research methods are needed to improve plant establishment and restoration monitoring, particularly in areas that have historically low success rates such as in semi-arid and arid rangeland landscapes. The purpose of this research is to assess the efficacy of remote sensing for tracking seedling height, seedling density, and seedling fate, and determine the biotic causes of seedling mortality in a rangeland revegetation site in northwestern Utah. In Chapter 1, we use 28 time-lapse and motion sensing infrared cameras (Reconyx) to measure seedling density and height in fenced and unfenced plots during the initial four months of seedling establishment and growth. We compare imaged-based measurements of seedling height and density with similar measurements collected in the field and at different daylight hours to determine the accuracy and reliability of remotely sensed measurements. We found that the ideal sample periods for capturing the clearest images were at the time the sun passed zenith and shadows were minimized. Average seedling height was 14% lower in image-based versus field estimates. Seedling density was underestimated by approximately 30% when using cameras. Our study establishes that remote sensing of seedlings using time-lapse cameras is a method for seedling research and monitoring in restoration efforts which merits further research and development. In Chapter 2, we track biotic causes of seedling fate using the methods developed in Chapter 1, and compare seedling survival in fenced and unfenced plots. Fencing led to a four-fold increase in the number of seedlings emerged from the soil. Herbivory and damage caused by trampling and burial resulted in the death of 61.4 % of all unfenced seedlings. Fencing plots increased the probability of seedling survival by seven times. Using cameras to track seedling fate at two restoration sites revealed that small herbivores, including Lepus californicus, Thomomys bottae, and Dipodomys sp. drastically reduced seedling survival during the first year after planting. Effects of herbivores on seedling survival should be taken into consideration when planning revegetation operations, and further research can increase knowledge of how herbivory affects restoration efforts. Using cameras can provide meaningful information to managers and researchers about seedling status and fate.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education



Date Submitted


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remote sensing, motion camera, seedling survival, herbivores, small mammals, time-lapse, rangeland, restoration



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