Introduced as a soil erosion deterrent, salt cedar has become a menace along riverbeds in the desert southwest. Salt cedar replaces native species, permanently altering the structure, composition, function, and natural processes of the landscape. Remote sensing technologies have the potential to monitor the level of invasion and its impacts on ecosystem services. In this research, we developed a species map by segmenting and classifying various species along a stretch of the Lower Gila River. We calculated metrics from high-resolution multispectral imagery and light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data to identify salt cedar, mesquite, and creosote. Analysts derived training and validation information from drone-acquired orthophotos to achieve an overall accuracy of 94%. It is clear from the results that salt cedar completely dominates the study area with small numbers of mesquite and creosote present. We also show that vegetation has declined in the study area over the last 25 years. We discuss how water usage may be influencing the plant health and biodiversity in the region. An examination of ground well, stream gauge, and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) groundwater storage data indicates a decline in water levels near the study area over the last 25 years.
- Salt cedar
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Global and Planetary Change
- Nature and Landscape Conservation