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Journal Article

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

K. Brinkmann, A. Patzelt, E. Schlecht and A. Buerkert
Applied Vegetation Science
Vol. 14, No. 1 (February 2011), pp. 17-30
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41058023
Page Count: 14
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Use of environmental predictors for vegetation mapping in semi-arid mountain rangelands and the determination of conservation hotspots
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Abstract

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 (400 km², resolution of 5 m) 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.

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