A rapid assessment method for ground layer coastal vegetation

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Abstract

We aim to test a rapid ecological assessment method to monitor regenerating coastal vegetation without sacrificing accuracy. We estimated species frequency in vegetation plots using traditional point intercept methods. We also tested a rapid, digital method to take high-resolution digital photographs of plots. We navigated among plot locations using a sub-meter Differential Global Positioning System instead of using permanent plot markers, and analyzed plot photographs in a point intercept manner (i.e., grid) in Geographic Information Systems software. We assessed species frequency in 52 permanent plots using traditional and digital methods. Traditional methods required 39.2 min per plot and digital methods required 4.6 min per plot. Estimates of frequency from traditional methods were substantially higher than those from digital methods for permanent plots, so we used an independent assessment of vegetation coverage to calibrate the utility of digital methods. A logistic regression equation can be used to compare historical traditional estimates to those collected digitally. Digital point intercept methods were successfully used for rapid ecological assessment. The primary advantages of digital methods include overwhelming efficiency compared to traditional methods, a resultant increase in sample size, and the ability to recover more accurate estimates of species frequency. Disadvantages of digital methods include a restriction of use for ground layer vegetation and positional inaccuracies introduced through sub-meter navigation. While traditional methods are less accurate in estimating species frequency, they are ideal for capturing accurate temporal trends in vegetation growth since they rely upon the use of permanent plot markers.

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Kilheffer, C. R., Raphael, J., Ries, L., & Underwood, H. B. (2019). A rapid assessment method for ground layer coastal vegetation. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 23(6), 1047–1055. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11852-019-00712-z

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