The Colors of Change

Phenology & Recovery of Heathland in high-resolution Drone Imagery

The description of spatio-temporal changes within a landscape continuum depends on natural processes of vegetation dynamics. For example, heathlands are characterized by different aspects of Calluna heath seasonal phenology, its accompanying species of lichens, mosses and grasses and the proportion of varying litter background. In consequence, each phase of a year is characterized by a specific color spectrum of pixels in a drone image. This can be used to relate image colors to particular vegetation characteristics such as vitality, reproduction and distribution patterns.

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Furthermore, temporal trends in vegetation development following the implementation of landscape conservation measures can be traced via specific color characteristics in drone images. For example, the appearance of a heath area changes drastically directly after mowing. After cutting old heather bushes, processes of natural succession can be traced spatially explicit. Besides the recovery of fresh Calluna sprouts, an increased flowering aspect can be observed. In addition, the spread of various types of herbs and grasses, which are subject to changed site conditions after the area has been cleared, can be observed.

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images & text by Neumann, Schindhelm