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Effect of check dams on riparian vegetation cover: A multiscale approach based on field measurements and satellite images for Leaf Area Index assessment

Ricci, Giovanni Francesco, Romano, Giovanni, Leronni, Vincenzo, Gentile, Francesco
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.657 pp. 827-838
Landsat, canopy, deciduous forests, equations, geomorphology, leaf area index, normalized difference vegetation index, prediction, remote sensing, riparian vegetation, streams, vegetation cover, wheat, Italy
This study aims to detect the variability of riparian vegetation by means of in-situ measurements of the Leaf Area Index (LAI) and its retrieval from Landsat 8 satellite images in a Mediterranean stream (‘Cammarota’, Puglia region, Southern Italy) characterized by the presence of intact and destroyed check dams. Fifty-three transects were measured using a Plant Canopy Analyzer and a broad range of LAI values (0.26–5.71) was observed. Lower values were found in Cammarota reaches with damaged or destroyed check dams that led to active erosive processes, whereas higher LAI values were detected in the reaches with greater geomorphological stability. These results were confirmed by the analysis of a nearby stream (‘Vallone della Madonna’) with intact check dams and sound riparian vegetation which produced a higher range (4.08–5.93) of LAI values. The LAI values of riparian vegetation in both streams were compared with those found in more homogeneous types of vegetation (wheat field and deciduous forest) in the surrounding areas, which were used as control plots. Landsat 8 satellite images relating to the same period of field activity were also analyzed, and the performance of three equations for deriving LAI values from the corrected Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was evaluated. The Lambert-Beer equation gave the best statistical performance for predicting LAI within the reaches of the Cammarota stream with a denser vegetation, as well as in the Vallone della Madonna stream and deciduous forest. The significant variability of the observed LAI values in the Cammarota reach subject to initial erosive processes, was not detected by any of the equations applied.