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Twenty-one years of crown area change in the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve based on georeferenced multitemporal aerial photographs

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A time series of large-scale aerial photographs of a 25 ha section of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (JRBP) in California was analysed for the quantification of long-term changes in the orthogonally projected crown areas of a sample of mature canopy trees growing in closed woodland and open grassland habitats. Crown area changes were computed on the basis of pairwise image comparisons for the years 1974, 1980, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1995. Single frame image correction methods were assessed by comparing a high-resolution physical-system based method of photogrammetric orthorectification with a low-resolution method of georeferencing that involved the use of ground control points (GCPs) for the derivation of best-fit statistical transformations. The same crown digitization procedure was used for both methods, and a statistically significant difference was not found between the high-resolution and low-resolution measured crown areas. Crown area changes were not correlated with differences in sun position at the time of aerial photo acquisition nor with differences in the off-nadir distances of each crown in the images being compared. The upper limit of digitizing error was 3.5% based on the mean coefficient of variation plus one standard deviation computed from repeat digitization measures of each crown. Crown area changes exceeding 3.5%in the pairwise image comparisons were attributed to actual crown growth or crown reduction. Expressed as a percentage of the original crown area, the mean annual rate of change for each pairwise sample period was 4.9% yr-1. In absolute terms, the mean annual rate of crown area change over the 21-year period 1974-1995 was 1.4m2 yr-1. The long-term mean annual crown growth rate of the clustered woodland trees (1.3m2yr-1) was not significantly different from the isolated grassland trees (1.5m2 yr-1). The mean annual rates of change for the periods 1974-1980, 1980-1989 and 1991-1993 were similar to the long-term average. Unusually low mean growth rates characterized the drought years of 1989-1990 and 1990-1991, while the relatively wet period of 1993-1995 exhibited the most dramatic increase in crown area at a mean rate of 3.0m2yr-1.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 10, 2000

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