Vegetation Mapping and Monitoring

Mapping and monitoring of vegetation is critically important for a variety of natural resource management goals including maintenance of biodiversity, monitoring of animal habitat, fire management planning, management of non-native plant cover, restoration ecological efforts, and protection of rare, threatened, and endangered plant and animal species. The undertaking of these mapping and monitoring activities is becoming increasingly urgent in light of projected changes to vegetation structure and composition due to climatic change and associated impacts such as greater precipitation and temperature variability as well as increased wildfire occurrence.

Over the past 25 years faculty and students in the Geography Department have collaborated on a wide variety of vegetation mapping and monitoring projects in San Diego county and northern Baja California. Our research has been funded by local, State, and Federal agencies. Methodologies for these projects employ a wide range of approaches that include substantial field work, and utilization of geographic information systems coupled with remote sensing techniques.


Vegetation and Land Cover Mapping of San Clemente Island

This project (2015-2018) was funded by the U.S. Navy and employed remote sensing analysis coupled with field work to produce the final map product and associated project report and metadata. A mapping approach based on hierarchical object-based classification with a rule-based expert system was utilized to effectively map vegetation communities on the island following the Manual of California Vegetation classification system.

Airborne Remote Sensing to Enable Hazardous Fuels Reduction, Forest Health Protection, Rehabilitation and Hazard Mitigation Activities on Federal Lands of Southern California

This project (2010-2013) was funded by the U.S. Forest Service and used remote sensing analysis in tandem with substantial field sampling in eastern San Diego county to: 1) estimate fuel loads using ultra-high spatial resolution aerial imagery of various aged chaparral shrublands, and 2) test the relationship between annual biomass estimated using shrub growth rings and metrics of seasonal growth derived from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) spectral vegetation indices to evaluate the potential for mapping chaparral biomass at larger spatial extents.

Long-Term Ecosystem Monitoring: Vegetation Component for Marine Air Corps Miramar, San Diego, CA

This project (2007-2009) entailed the resampling of 75 permanent vegetation plots initially established in 1993, resampled in 1999, and again in 2008 on MCAS Miramar. Information derived from these studies has been used in conjunction with other forms of biological and environmental information to facilitate long-term natural resource management of the air station.



Procedures for encoding, storage, management, and display of spatial data; theory of computer-assisted map analysis; examination of important geographic information systems.

Links between landscape patterns and ecological processes at a variety of spatial scales to include causes and measures of landscape patterns, effects of landscape patterns on organisms, landscape models, landscape planning and management.

The natural vegetation formations of the world and their classifications, development, distribution, and environmental influences to include relationships to human activities. Field trips may be arranged.

Acquiring and interpreting remotely sensed data of environment. Electromagnetic radiation processes, aerial and satellite imaging systems and imagery. Geographic analysis of selected human, terrestrial, and marine processes and resources.

Practical exercises, introductory processing, visual interpretation and mapping of remotely sensed imagery.

Digital image processing. Thermal infrared and microwave imaging systems and image interpretation principles. Geographic analysis of selected human, terrestrial, oceanographic, and atmospheric processes and resources.

Digital image processing, visual interpretation, mapping of thermal infrared, and microwave imagery.

Intensive study of an aspect of physical geography. May be repeated with new content. See Class Schedule for specific content.