UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evaluating the spatial distribution of plant function in a prairie-oak savanna using spectroscopy Hacker, Paul W.


In Canada, prairie-oak ecosystems along the south-east coast of Vancouver Island are both the country’s most biodiverse and threatened. Anthropogenic land use change and fire suppression are altering the traditional composition of plant species and structure in these savannas, as well as reducing their total area. In 2001, Environment Canada published a study highlighting the impact of habitat fragmentation, the role of fire and the associated consequences of its removal, as well as the presence and effects of exotic species as fundamental ecosystem characteristics that are currently threatened, central to the recovery of prairie-oak savannas and require further scientific enquiry. Each of these fundamental characteristics required an enhanced understanding of the spatial distribution of plant species, lifeform and function. Due to the potential for high species richness and small individual plant footprints relevant data must be collected at fine spatial resolutions. Remote sensing, specifically drone-based imaging spectroscopy, presents a viable method for gathering information that can be used in analyses evaluating the aforementioned fundamental ecosystem characteristics. My research demonstrates the complexity facing studies examining prairie-oak savannas using imaging spectroscopy and provides evidence that plant diversity and function, as well as structural composition, can be spatially evaluated. This work also substantiates the capacity for remote sensing to detect a key exotic species, Cytisus scoparius (L.) Link (Scotch broom) and examine the effects of anthropogenic activities on the primary tree species associated with these ecosystems, Quercus garryana Douglas ex. Hook (Garry oak). Combined, this information directly addresses key knowledge gaps and provides land managers with a variety of new methods to monitor prairie-oak savannas.

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