Can digital image classification be used as a standardised method for surveying peatland vegetation cover?

Baxendale, Catherine Louise and Ostle, Nicholas John and Wood, C. M. and Oakley, Simon and Ward, Susan Elizabeth (2016) Can digital image classification be used as a standardised method for surveying peatland vegetation cover? Ecological Indicators, 68. pp. 150-156. ISSN 1470-160X

[thumbnail of Baxendale et al 2015 Author final version]
PDF (Baxendale et al 2015 Author final version)
Baxendale_et_al_2015_Author_final_version.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs.

Download (1MB)


The ability to carry out systematic, accurate and repeatable vegetation surveys is an essential part of long-term scientific studies into ecosystem biodiversity and functioning. However, current widely used traditional survey techniques such as destructive harvests, pin frame quadrats and visual cover estimates can be very time consuming and are prone to subjective variations. We investigated the use of digital image techniques as an alternative way of recording vegetation cover to plant functional type level on a peatland ecosystem. Using an established plant manipulation experimental site at Moor House NNR (an Environmental Change Network site), we compared visual cover estimates of peatland vegetation with cover estimates using digital image classification methods, from 0.5 m × 0.5 m field plots. Our results show that digital image classification of photographs taken with a standard digital camera can be used successfully to estimate dwarf-shrub and graminoid vegetation cover at a comparable level to field visual cover estimates, although the methods were less effective for lower plants such as mosses and lichens. Our study illustrates the novel application of digital image techniques to provide a new way of measuring and monitoring peatland vegetation to the plant functional group level, which is less vulnerable to surveyor bias than are visual field surveys. Furthermore, as such digital techniques are highly repeatable, we suggest that they have potential for use in long-term monitoring studies, at both plot and landscape scales.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Ecological Indicators
Additional Information:
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Ecological Indicators. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Ecological Indicators, 68, 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.11.035
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? digital imagingpeatlandsvegetation surveyplant functional typelong-term monitoringmoor house nnrecologyecology, evolution, behavior and systematicsdecision sciences(all) ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
02 Mar 2016 16:58
Last Modified:
17 Dec 2023 01:32