Use of environmental predictors for vegetation mapping in semi-arid mountain rangelands and the determination of conservation hotspots

Brinkmann, K
Patzelt, A
Schlecht, E
Buerkert, A
Applied Vegetation Science
Publication Year: 
Question: Can we predict the spatial distribution of plant communities in semi-arid rangelands based on a limited set of environmental variables? Where are priority areas for conservation located? Location: Al Jabal al Akhdar, Sultanate of Oman.Methods: A Classification Tree Analysis (CTA) was used to model the presence/absence of seven rangeland communities and agricultural areas based on seven selected environmental predictor variables. The latter were either obtained from existing digital datasets or derived from a digital elevation model and satellite images, whereas the grazing intensity was spatially modelled with the kernel density estimation technique. The resulting decision rules of a CTA were applied for predictive mapping within the study area (400km2, resolution of 5m) by means of ENVI's decision tree classifier. Plant communities of natural rangelands were subsequently evaluated to determine priority areas for nature conservation. Results: Altitude, grazing intensity and landform revealed the highest predictive power. Most of the rangelands were predicted as Sideroxylon oleetum. The overall classification accuracy was 89%, whereby agricultural areas and the Ziziphus spina-christi-Nerium oleander community at wadi sites had no misclassification. Inaccuracies occurred mainly because of low sample numbers and errors in available maps of predictor variables. The highest rank for nature conservation was observed for the Teucrio-Juniperetum occupying 20% of the study area.Conclusions: Vegetation mapping using CTA is a valuable tool for rangeland monitoring and identification of key representative areas for nature conservation. An extrapolation of the model used might be feasible to regions adjacent to the central Hajar Mountains.
Name of Journal: 
Applied Vegetation Science
Resource Type: 
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.