Land use intensity trajectories on Amazonian pastures derived from Landsat time series

Abstract

Monitoring changes in land use intensity of grazing systems in the Amazon is an important prerequisite to study the complex political and socio-economic forces driving Amazonian deforestation. Remote sensing offers the potential to map pasture vegetation over large areas, but mapping pasture conditions consistently through time is not a trivial task because of seasonal changes associated with phenology and data gaps from clouds and cloud shadows. In this study, we tested spectral-temporal metrics derived from intra-annual Landsat time series to distinguish between grass-dominated and woody pastures. The abundance of woody vegetation on pastures is an indicator for management intensity, since the duration and intensity of land use steer secondary succession rates, apart from climate and soil conditions. We used the developed Landsat-based metrics to analyze pasture intensity trajectories between 1985 and 2012 in Novo Progresso, Brazil, finding that woody vegetation cover generally decreased after four to ten years of grazing activity. Pastures established in the 80s and early 90s showed a higher fraction of woody vegetation during their initial land use history than pastures established in the early 2000s. Historic intensity trajectories suggested a trend towards more intensive land use in the last decade, which aligns well with regional environmental policies and market dynamics. This study demonstrates the potential of dense Landsat time series to monitor land-use intensification on Amazonian pastures.

Publication
International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Dirk Pflugmacher
Dirk Pflugmacher
Senior Researcher
Patrick Hostert
Patrick Hostert
Principal Investigator