Niti B. Mishra, Doctoral Candidate recently presented a department colloquium entitled: Challenges and Opportunities in Upscaling Ecosystem Structural and Functional Properties in Savanna Systems.
Abstract: Dryland and savanna ecosystems are geographically extensive, ecologically important, and economically significant. Worldwide, drylands and savannas are increasingly impacted by anthropogenic land-use and climatic variability leading to directional changes in the balance of woody and herbaceous vegetation cover (e.g. shrub encroachment) which is in turn affecting biogeochemical processes and habitat-related key structural resources in these systems. These changes remain poorly understood, especially in African savannas that are extensive, wild and pose significant logistical challenges and dangers for field based research. Advances in remote sensing and geospatial data processing have greatly facilitated local to landscape scale ecological characterization in savannas. However, there are still number of challenges in upscaling ecosystem variables in savannas from plot-level scales to regional units of management because (i) the woody and herbaceous layers in savanna have distinct and contrasting physiognomy and phenology that vary in both space and time; (ii) oversimplified representation of important local patch scale variation and dynamics of savanna spatial pattern in previous research following per-pixel analysis approach. Recent availability of remotely sensed data at multiple spatio-temporal scales, along with advancement in image analysis methods, is showing the potential to overcome these challenges. Considering the Central Kalahari region of Botswana as a case study, this talk will discuss some potential strategies and solutions to these challenges offered by combining field information with multi-scale satellite data, improved image analysis methods and overview of future research directions.