• Red Rocks with water in front of them in the desert.
  • Clouds behind Joshua Tree and bushes.
  • Desert flowers blooming in bushes in front of mountains in the desert.
  • Setting sun reflecting of clouds of orange and blue behind a joshua tree.
  • Hoover Dam intake towers with water behind the dam showing that it is not full.


Remote sensing to segregate grass and shrub mixed habitats in Janos Grassland Priority Conservation Area

Science Need(s)

Critical Management Question 3: Grassland and Shrubland Management.
What and where are the greatest threats to native desert grassland and shrubland conservation targets (e.g., endangered species, migratory birds, other species of concern)? Where are desert grassland and shrubland habitats resilient and where are priority areas with high potential for restoration? What are the most appropriate management and restoration techniques for desert grassland and shrubland habitats for conservation targets, site specific conditions (e.g., soil type, precipitation, elevation, slope, invasive species), and socio-economic constraints?

Critical Management Question 2: Monitoring Species/Processes and Related Threats/Stressors
What species and ecological processes are sensitive to climate change and/or other large scale stressors (e.g., water management, invasive species, altered fire regime, wind erosion) and can be effectively monitored to indicate the overall effects of these stressors on ecosystems, habitats, and species, thus helping managers detect, understand, and respond to these changes? What are the best monitoring designs and protocols to detect changes to these processes and species at temporal and geographic scales suitable for providing adequate and reliable metrics?

Critical Management Question 6: Amphibians/Reptiles Vulnerability
What are the species of amphibians and reptiles that are currently considered not vulnerable but are likely to experience negative changes in their population sizes and/or extents of distribution due to future changes in climate, fire regime and water availability in the Southwestern deserts?

Grantee: Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory
Principle Investigators: Greg Levandoski (Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory), Duane Pool (Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory), Juan Carlos Guzman (Chihuahuan Desert Grassland Alliance), Irene Ruvalcaba (Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León), Antonio Moreno Talamantes, (Especies, Sociedad y Hábitat)
Cooperative Agreement:  $4,268 in matching funds and $96,989 in Federal funds provided by US Fish and Wildlife Service
Project Duration: 2013-2015
Project Goal(s)
The need for a consistent and detailed land cover classification has been highlighted by several teams within the Desert LCC (for use in habitat inventory, fire-fuel modeling, landscape change and risk assessments. The team leading CMQ 3 specifically identified the need to better segregate the grass and shrub composition that make up much of the desert habitats. We will identify a grassland remote sensing methodology that can be applied consistently throughout the desert grasslands any time an organization with the desire, means and capacity wishes to extend its geographic land cover inventory.  The goals/objectives of this proposal are to identify which approach or combination of remote sensing approaches results in the best delineation between levels of shrub encroached grasslands, assess whether any combination of these approaches can be used at an implementation scale to delineate grass-shrub at threshold levels with biological meaning for species with available information (i.e. birds, antelope, herptiles or other grassland endemic species), classify the grasslands and shrublands of the Janos Grassland Priority Conservation Area, evaluate the compatibility for cross-walks of the classification outputs with existing classification products (LandFire, GAP, ReGAP).

Brief Project Description
Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory will use, combine and optimize an array of remote sensing techniques to identify the most efficient process that characterizes grasslands and level of shrub component in those grasslands. The project will classify a pilot area, the Janos Grassland Priority Conservation Area, which contains the majority of the Janos Biosphere Reserve, using a variety of remote sensing approaches. In the process they will identify the best techniques for decomposing grass-shrub intermix at low densities and identify the best approaches for large scale application of remote sensing to classify the desert grasslands and shrub lands.

Project Location

Janos Grassland Priority Conservation Area

Project Tasks

  1. Acquire training data
  2. Work with LandFire staff to transfer existing models
  3. Identify species thresholds
  4. Acquire satellite data
  5. Perform and validate land cover classifications
  6. Compare outputs to existing land cover products
  7. Peer review
  8. Conduct webinar and outreach

Project Deliverables

  1. Janos Grassland Priority Conservation Area classification
  1. A quantified assessment of grassland remote sensing techniques
  1. Technical guide on how to classify desert grasslands using best available techniques
  1. Signature and/or decision tree file for grass and shrub categories
  2. Up to 3 webinars on the methods and results
  3. Project summary document

Opportunities to learn more

Documents for downloading

Project Proposal