They're Monitoring 20,000+ Acres of Rangeland in Minutes...

This guest post is by Jared Lewis of The San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve & Solano Land Trust, revealing how they quickly monitor their land with remote sensing tools.

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By Jared Lewis, Solano Land Trust

Our remote monitoring program was initiated by Dr. Steve Kohlmann (SLT) and Dr. Michael Vasey (NERR) in 2015 to support rangeland and biological monitoring efforts on our reserve sites and agricultural lands. Collectively, we (the Solano Land Trust and San Francisco National Estuarine Research Reserve) manage over 20,000 acres of regional conservation land. The majority of these lands are active working lands, including 13,000 acres of prime grazing land. Our remote monitoring program was developed to respond to the significant challenges that both organizations identified with regard to landscape-scale monitoring, including high costs associated with monitoring and complex logistics. In many cases, monitoring would not be feasible without the use of remote sensing, imagery analysis, and the other technologies we employ. 

Two examples of imagery analysis and classification. Habitat basemap produced with NDVI data and aerial imagery. Overlay of native grassland points detected through image differencing: time series used to extract native grassland stands (Stipa pulchra).

Two examples of imagery analysis and classification. Habitat basemap produced with NDVI data and aerial imagery. Overlay of native grassland points detected through image differencing: time series used to extract native grassland stands (Stipa pulchra).

We are currently applying a number of field validated remote sensing approaches to improve conservation and agricultural management of our properties. We utilize both aerial imagery and UAS (drones) imagery to generate high resolution spectral and imagery data. This gives us the ability to leverage a landscape-level view of our properties, which in turn informs management and decision making. By providing land managers and site partners with timely and actionable information, we increase the efficiency and accuracy of our monitoring programs—delivering tremendous value. More importantly, this approach allows us to scale management and monitoring across our entire network of protected land. It also allows us to track long-term ecological change as well as factors important to our grazing tenants, such as forage production and invasive species. 

Recent efforts (see picture) include automated RDM and forage tracking applications, invasive species monitoring, and habitat mapping of our upland and wetland systems. We have integrated remotely captured data into many other aspects of our monitoring programs, including conservation planning work and conservation easement monitoring. This technology has significantly increased our ability to respond to management needs, and helps to identify these needs quickly and efficiently. 

For more information, contact Jared Lewis at jared@solanolandtrust.org