Characterizing spatial patterns of invasive species using sub-pixel classifications

A. E. Frazier, L. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Invasive species disrupt landscape patterns and compromise the functionality of ecosystem processes. Non-native saltcedar poses significant threats to native vegetation and groundwater resources in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, and quantifying spatial and temporal distribution patterns is essential for monitoring its spread. Considerable research focuses on determining the accuracy of various remote sensing techniques for distinguishing saltcedar from native woody riparian vegetation through sub-pixel, or soft classifications. However, there is a lack of research quantifying spatial distribution patterns from these classifications, mainly because landscape metrics, which are commonly used to statistically assess these patterns, require bounded classes and cannot be applied directly to soft classifications. This study tests a new method for discretizing sub-pixel data to generate landscape metrics using a continuum of fractional cover thresholds. The developed approach transforms sub-pixel classifications into discrete maps compliant with metric terms and computes and interprets metric results in the context of the region to explain patterns in the extent, distribution, and connectivity of saltcedar in the Rio Grande basin. Results indicate that landscape metrics are sensitive to sub-pixel values and can vary greatly with fractional cover. Therefore spectral unmixing should be performed prior to metric calculations. Analysis of metric trends provides evidence that saltcedar has expanded away from the immediate riparian zones and is displacing native vegetation. This information, coupled with control management strategies, can be used to target remediation activities along the Rio Grande.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1997-2007
Number of pages11
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 15 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Landscape metrics
  • Saltcedar
  • Spectral unmixing
  • Sub-pixel classification
  • Threshold continuum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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