RIPARIAN VEGETATION STATUS AND RATES OF WATER USE FROM SATELLITE DATA
Keywords: Ecosystem, Vegetation, Multitemporal, Landsat, Management
Abstract. Hydrology and water availability are key determinants of the health of riparian vegetation systems, and an understanding of the interactions between vegetation and hydrology is a prerequisite for the maintenance and improvement of these systems under managed water regimes. Changes to natural flooding cycles, caused by the regulation of river flows and irrigation activities, have changed the composition and amount of vegetation, and the distribution of species within riparian areas (Chong and Ladson, 2003; Lawrence and Colloff, 2008). The extent and frequency of flooding cycles are key issues for the health of riparian ecosystems under controlled water management regimes. This paper demonstrates the potential contribution of satellite-based measurements to an improved understanding of the changes in vegetation status of riparian systems, and, also, of their water requirement. Evapotranspiration (ET) and Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) of the Barmah Forest were derived from satellite imagery over a number of years. NDVI provided a general measure of vegetation status and cover. ET measures provided an indication of the availability of water to the existing vegetation, and an assessment of areas under water-stress (Anderson et al., 2012). Previous work has demonstrated that these indicators provide a comprehensive measure of riparian vegetation status (Sheffield et al., 2011), and estimates of vegetation water requirement (Whitfield et al., 2010a; Sheffield et al., 2011). This paper addresses changes in NDVI and ET rate of major vegetation classes in the Barmah Forest over the period, 1993 – 2008. Measures of ET and NDVI, analysed in conjunction with rainfall and river flow data, provided insights into the response of vegetation to changes in water availability, which may be used to evaluate impacts of management practices and water regime within riparian zones.