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Qinling Mountain region of the Changqing Nature Reserve

The Qinling Mountain region of the Changqing Nature Reserve, Shaanxi Province, China

The Qinling Mountain region of the Changqing Nature Reserve, Shaanxi Province, China. By analyzing vegetation information collected by satellites over time, instead of for just one day, researchers at the Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability developed a novel procedure to assess the composition of plant species at this study site.

Traditionally, researchers have used multi-spectral images (which include radiation outside human perception, such as infrared) and other remotely sensed data to create maps of vegetation around the world. But seasonal changes in vegetation can limit the usefulness of these procedures, making them accurate for only the particular day or season when the data was collected.

For the new procedure, the researchers analyzed the variability of the electromagnetic spectrum over time, in response to the temporal variability of the vegetation in an area. Then they calibrated their analysis with information on plant species composition they'd collected in the field at the study site--the Changqing Nature Reserve. So instead of viewing a snapshot, the researchers looked at the area over time. Now they can say if two places exhibit similar temporal variability, then they are probably floristically similar. The new procedure will allow resource managers to assess the plant biodiversity of a region without having to do the painstaking work of collecting regionwide field data.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. To learn more, see the MSU news story see Researchers develop new technique to assess diversity of plant species from afar. (Date of Image: June 2005)

Credit: Andres Viņa, Michigan State University

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