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AN ECOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT OF INVASIVE AND AGRESSIVE PLANT SPECIES IN COASTAL WETLANDS OF THE LAURENTIAN GREAT LAKES: A COMBINED FIELD BASED AND REMOTE SENSING APPROACH
Lopez, R D. AND C M. Edmonds. AN ECOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT OF INVASIVE AND AGRESSIVE PLANT SPECIES IN COASTAL WETLANDS OF THE LAURENTIAN GREAT LAKES: A COMBINED FIELD BASED AND REMOTE SENSING APPROACH. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-01/018 (NTIS PB2001-105213), 2001.
The objectives of this task are to:
Assess new remote sensing technology for applicability to landscape characterization; Integrate multiple sensor systems data for improved landscape characterization;
Coordinate future technological needs with other agencies' sensor development programs;
Apply existing remote sensing systems to varied landscape characterization needs; and
Conduct remote sensing applications research for habitat suitability, water resources, and terrestrial condition indicators.
The aquatic plant communities within coastal wetlands of the Laurentian Great Lakes are among the most biologically diverse and productive systems of the world. Coastal wetlands have been especially impacted by landscape conversion and have undergone a marked decline in plant community biological diversity in the past. The loss of biological diversity in coastal wetland plant communities coincided with an increase in the presence and patch-dominance of invasive (i.e., non-native and opportunistic) and aggressive (i.e., native and opportunistic) plant species. The loss of biological diversity, by definition, may be the result of the increased presence of invasive and aggressive plant species, and other ecosystem research suggests that such invasive and aggressive plant species may be the result of general ecosystem stress in coastal wetlands (see "Theoretical Basis of Project"). Thus, such losses of biological diversity in the plant communities of Great Lakes coastal wetlands may be related to changes in the frequency of landscape disturbance within a wetland or on the edges of wetlands (e.g., road fragmentation of wetland ecosystems, conversion of wetland ecosystems to agriculture, or wetland hydrology alterations). Little is known about such ecological relationships in the Great Lakes, especially at the lake-basin scale. The purpose of this study is to examine some of the landscape-scale ecological relationships by quantifying the extent and pattern of invasive/aggressive plant species and testing for substantive relationships with local landscape disturbance in the past. Remote sensing technologies may offer unique capabilities to measure the extent of these invasive and aggressive species over a large area. Our approach is to use ground-based vegetation sampling to calibrate remote sensing data, to develop spectral signatures of invasive/aggressive species that may then be used to address the ecological vulnerability of coastal wetlands. This study will focus on coastal wetlands along the coastal regions of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake St. Claire, and Lake Erie that represent a full range of disturbance conditions in the lake basins, but may also include coastal areas of the other Great Lakes (Figure 1). The outcome of this study will help managers throughout the Great Lakes region target vulnerable coastal wetlands in need of restoration or protection, an important component of improving the water quality and ecological integrity of the Great Lakes Ecosystem. This project will also produce a method that could be used by environmental managers to monitor the progress/success of wetland rehabilitation and restoration projects where measures are taken to control or eradicate aggressive plant species.