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Extracting Plant Phenology Metrics in a Great Basin Watershed: Methods and Considerations for Quantifying Phenophases in a Cold Desert
AuthorSnyder, Keirith A.
Wehan, Bryce L.
Huntington, Justin L.
Stringham, Tamzen K.
Snyder, Devon K.
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Plant phenology is recognized as important for ecological dynamics. There has been a recent advent of phenology and camera networks worldwide. The established PhenoCam Network has sites in the United States, including the western states. However, there is a paucity of published research from semi-arid regions. In this study, we demonstrate the utility of camera-based repeat digital imagery and use of R statistical phenopix package to quantify plant phenology and phenophases in four plant communities in the semi-arid cold desert region of the Great Basin. We developed an automated variable snow/night filter for removing ephemeral snow events, which allowed fitting of phenophases with a double logistic algorithm. We were able to detect low amplitude seasonal variation in pinyon and juniper canopies and sagebrush steppe, and characterize wet and mesic meadows in area-averaged analyses. We used individual pixel-based spatial analyses to separate sagebrush shrub canopy pixels from interspace by determining differences in phenophases of sagebrush relative to interspace. The ability to monitor plant phenology with camera-based images fills spatial and temporal gaps in remotely sensed data and field based surveys, allowing species level relationships between environmental variables and phenology to be developed on a fine time scale thus providing powerful new tools for land management.