Nearly all of the ecosystem services supported by rangelands, including production of livestock forage, carbon sequestration, and provisioning of clean water, are negatively impacted by soil erosion. Accordingly, monitoring the severity, spatial extent, and rate of soil erosion is essential for long-term sustainable management. Traditional field-based methods of monitoring erosion ( sediment traps, erosion pins, and bridges) can be labor intensive and therefore are generally limited in spatial intensity and/or extent. There is a growing effort to monitor natural resources at broad scales, which is driving the need for new soil erosion monitoring tools. One remote-sensing technique that can be used to monitor soil movement is a time series of digital elevation models (DEMs) created using aerial photogrammetry methods. By geographically coregistering the DEMs and subtracting one surface from the other, an estimate of soil elevation change can be created. Such analysis enables spatially explicit quantification and visualization of net soil movement including erosion, deposition, and redistribution. We constructed DEMs (12-cm ground sampling distance) on the basis of aerial photography immediately before and 1 year after a vegetation removal treatment on a 31-ha Piñon-Juniper woodland in southeastern Utah to evaluate the use of aerial photography in detecting soil surface change. On average, we were able to detect surface elevation change of ±8–9cm and greater, which was sufficient for the large amount of soil movement exhibited on the study area. Detecting more subtle soil erosion could be achieved using the same technique with higherresolution imagery from lower-flying aircraft such as unmanned aerial vehicles. DEM differencing and processfocused field methods provided complementary information and a more complete assessment of soil loss and movement than any single technique alone. Photogrammetric DEM differencing could be used as a technique to quantitatively monitor surface change over time relative to management activities.
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Vol. 69 • No. 2