Comparing Photographic and GIS-based Applications for Estimating Canopy Cover in Southern Appalachian Bogs

Karen Ann Landert


Mountain bogs are among the rarest natural communities in the Southern Appalachians.  For the past several years, UNC Asheville faculty and students have been collecting data on a wide variety of parameters such as water levels, water quality, soils, vegetation surveys, and GPS locations of key features in these bogs.  A better understanding of these parameters will ultimately lead to better management decisions in the future.

Bog management involves linking and being able to analyze biotic and abiotic processes and components of the bog ecosystem.   One of these key processes is evapotranspiration, the process by which plants draw water from the ground and transpire it into the atmosphere.  Trees and underbrush are often manually removed from bogs to reduce evapotranspiration, open the canopy, and restore more natural conditions. Quantifying canopy cover in mountain bogs will help determine the amount of vegetation to remove. However, methods for determining canopy cover are often either cheap but labor intensive or faster but expensive. As a result, there are few methods that are both readily-accessible and reliable.

The purpose of this study is twofold. The first goal is to investigate free and inexpensive cell phone applications or ‘apps’ that can be used to process canopy cover images and determine which, if any, produce reliable data. The second goal is to evaluate ESRI ArcGIS classified imagery to determine canopy cover and then test both the ‘apps’ and GIS-based process against traditional densitometer readings which have been used for decades.


Bog management, GIS, Classified Imagery

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