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The utilization of historical data and geospatial technology advances at the Jornada Experimental Range to support western America ranching culture
- Rango, Albert, Havstad, Kris, Estell, Rick
- Remote Sensing 2011 v.3 no.9 pp. 2089
- USDA, aerial photography, data collection, ecological invasion, ecosystems, geographic information systems, global positioning systems, grasslands, invasive species, landscapes, livestock, monitoring, overgrazing, ranchers, ranching, range management, rangelands, remote sensing, shrubs, spatial data, wildlife, New Mexico
- By the early 1900s, concerns were expressed by ranchers, academicians, and federal scientists that widespread overgrazing and invasion of native grassland by woody shrubs were having severe negative impacts upon normal grazing practices in Western America. Ranchers wanted to reverse these trends and continue their way of life and were willing to work with scientists to find ways to make it possible. One response to this desire was establishment of the USDA Jornada Experimental Range (783 km2) in south central New Mexico by a Presidential Executive Order in 1912 for conducting rangeland investigations. This cooperative effort involved experiments to understand principles of proper management and the processes causing the woody shrub invasion as well as to identify treatments to eradicate shrubs. By the late 1940s, it was apparent that combining the historical ground-based data accumulated at Jornada Experimental Range with rapidly expanding post World War II technologies would yield a better understanding of the driving processes in these arid and semiarid ecosystems which could then lead to improved rangeland management practices. One specific technology was the use of aerial photography to interpret landscape resource conditions. The assembly and utilization of long-term historical aerial photography data sets has occurred over the last half century. More recently, Global Positioning System (GPS) techniques have been used in a myriad of scientific endeavors including to accurately locate historical and contemporary treatment plots and to track research animals including livestock and wildlife. As an incredible amount of both spatial and temporal data became available, Geographic Information Systems have been exploited to display various layers of data over the same locations. Subsequent analyses of these data layers have begun to yield new insights. The most recent technological development has been the deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) that afford the opportunity to obtain high (5 cm) resolution data now required for rangeland monitoring. The Jornada team is now a leader in civil UAV applications in the USA. The scientific advances at the Jornada in fields such as remote sensing can be traced back to the original Western America ranching culture that established the Jornada in 1912 and which persists as an important influence in shaping research directions today.