The Impact of Land Use Change on the 3-D Structure of Shrubland and Savanna Dryland Ecosystems
Washington-Allen, Robert A.
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A terrestrial LiDAR scanner was used to compare the vegetation of two nearby sites with different management regimes. Drylands cover 41% of the terrestrial land surface and provide $1 trillion in ecosystem goods and services to 36% of the global population. However the degree of Dryland degradation is largely unknown, particularly the impacts to carbon stocks such as livestock forage from droughts and land use practices. Subsistence pastoral societies are particularly vulnerable due to interactions between livestock and carbon stocks where drought induced reduction of carbon stocks may result in widespread livestock mortality, then famine, and thus human mortality. Newly implemented livestock insurance programs in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia may provide avenues for stock replenishment and thus renewal of livelihoods in global Drylands. However, robust indicators of livestock mortality due to drought-induced forage loss are required. Terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) or ground light detection-and-ranging (LIDAR) is a remote sensing technology that has been successfully used in Dryland ecosystems to assess changes in the three-dimensional (3D) structure of soil and vegetation, including soil sediment loads and vegetation biomass (Olsoy et al., 2014a, b), that are diagnostic of impacts from grazing, drought, fire (Delgado et al. 2012), and wind and water erosion (Li et al. 2010). Consequently, local scale TLS linked to regional scale satellite imagery may provide an indicator of critical forage loss due to drought.