Vegetation Map: Definition, Purpose, Use, and Benefit

What is meant by a vegetation map?

A vegetation map is exactly what it sounds like: a map of vegetation. A vegetation map is an essential information for any land manager, whether the land is managed for agriculture, forestry, or recreation, and it is relevant to almost every issue that a land manager faces.

Vegetation cover is a geographic phenomenon. Whatever criteria (physiognomic, structural, ecological, floristics, and so on; see Whittaker, 1978) are used to classify (thus simplify) vegetation, vegetation types can be mapped – as a two-dimensional graphical model known as a vegetation map.

What is the purpose of a vegetation map?

The mosaic of plant communities in the landscape is known as vegetation. Its importance as a resource and an indicator of site qualities necessitates the availability of the most up-to-date information on the character of individual plant communities, their location, and their extent. This information allows for the correlation of vegetation and its seasonal variations with various environmental features. 

The geographical distribution pattern of vegetation in the landscape is revealed when the location and extent of the plant communities are shown on a topographic (contour) map, and the ecological significance of the plant communities can be inferred. One of the first steps in mapping vegetation is selecting an appropriate method to analyze the character of the plant communities.

What is the purpose of a vegetation map?

What is the use of a vegetation map?

Vegetation maps are useful because they can model an area’s current vegetation and be used to predict future vegetation changes. Vegetation maps serve as a foundation for understanding the world around us as well as solving complex problems such as management.

  1. Fire management: When the new vegetation map was compared to data collected in the 1930s, it was discovered that in areas where severe fires occurred, forest vegetation had changed to shrubland. Fire management vegetation data is translated into a fuels map (dead and down woody debris and flammable vegetation) so that fire crews can model how a fire will behave in specific areas more accurately. This is critical for fighting wildfires and managing prescribed burns within the park.
  2. Wildlife management: Understanding where specific plant communities occur allows for a better understanding of where various animals are likely to be found. It provides information about available habitat and food resources for those animals, allowing wildlife managers to better assess how a species is doing and what the population numbers should be.

What is the benefit of using drones to map vegetation?

Drones can provide measurements of trail parameters like width, depth, and informal trail proliferation, as well as more complex measurements like vegetation change, soil loss due to erosion, or landslides (Turner et al.).

DJI recently released the P4 multispectral, a high-precision unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or ‘drone’) that incorporates multispectral cameras to facilitate agricultural and environmental monitoring applications. As a result, collecting imagery data for vegetation mapping is now easier and more efficient than ever.

Images are collected by an RGB camera and a multispectral camera array with five global shutter cameras covering blue, green, red, red-edge, and near-infrared bands at a resolution of 1,600 x 1,300 pixels in the DJI P4 multispectral (Figure 1). To align the flight controller, RGB/multispectral cameras, and RTK module, DJI’s built-in system uses real-time, centimeter-accurate positioning data on images captured by all six cameras. 

This fixes the positioning data to the CMOS’s center and ensures that each image uses the most up-to-date metadata. All cameras benefit from the calibration process, which measures and saves radial and tangential lens distortions into each image’s metadata to make post-processing easier. More importantly, a spectral sunlight sensor integrated on top of the UAV captures solar irradiance to maximize the accuracy and consistency of data collection at different times of the day. This allows for the most accurate NDVI results to be obtained.

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