Assessment of herbaceous plant habitats in water-constrained environments: Predicting indirect effects with fuzzy logic Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Herbaceous plant production plays a key role in determining the function of rangeland ecosystems in the semi-arid and Mediterranean regions. Therefore, assessment of herbaceous plant habitats is important for understanding the ecosystem functioning in these regions and for applied purposes, such as range management and land evaluation. This paper presents a model to assess herbaceous plant habitats in a basaltic stony environment in a Mediterranean region. The model is based on geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing and fuzzy logic, while four indirect variables, which represent major characteristics of herbaceous habitats, are modeled: rock cover fraction; wetness index (WI); soil depth; and slope orientation (aspect). A linear unmixing model was used to measure rock cover on a per pixel basis using a Landsat TM summer image. The wetness index and local aspect were determined from digital elevation data with 25 m × 25 m pixel resolution, while soil data were gathered in a field survey. The modeling approach adopted here is process-based and assumes that water availability plays a crucial role in determining herbaceous plant production in Mediterranean and semi-arid environments. The model rules are based on fuzzy logic and are written based on the hypothesized water requirements of the herbaceous vegetation. The results show that on a polygon basis there is positive agreement between the model proposed here and previous mapping of the herbaceous habitats carried out in the field using traditional methods. Intrapolygon tests show that the use of a continuous raster data model and fuzzy logic principles provide an added value to traditional mapping. Moreover, herbaceous biomass measurements at two time intervals—mid- and peak winter season—corresponded with the habitat assessment predictions achieved using a new scenario that is proposed in this research. This scenario suggests that rockiness increases herbaceous production on south-facing slopes, while in other slope aspects the rock cover has lower impact on herbaceous growth. Due to its simplicity, the model suggested here can be used by planners and managers, to adjust range activities over large areas. The process-based approach should allow adaptation of the model to other regions more effectively than models that were formulated on a purely empirical basis. The model could also be used to study the relationship between water availability and ecosystem productivity on a regional scale.

publication date

  • January 1, 2004