Degradation of Non-Photosynthetic Vegetation in a Semi-Arid Rangeland
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Land degradation in drylands is the process in which undesirable conditions emerge due to human and natural causes. Despite the particularly deleterious effects of degradation, and it’s potentially irreversible nature, regional assessments have provided conflicting extents, rates, and severities of degradation, both globally and regionally. Current monitoring of degradation relies upon the detection of green, photosynthetically active parts of vegetation (e.g., leaves). Less is known, however, about the effect of degradation on the non-photosynthetic components of vegetation (e.g., wood, stems, leaf litter) and the relationship between photosynthetic vegetation (PV), non-photosynthetic vegetation (NPV), and bare soil under degraded conditions (BS). The major objective of the study was to evaluate regional patterns of fractional cover (i.e., PV, NPV, BS) under degraded and non-degraded NPP conditions in a managed rangeland in north Queensland, Australia. Homogenous environmental conditions were identified and each of NPP, PV, NPV, and BS were scaled according to their potential, reference values. We found a strong spatial and temporal correlation between scaled NPP with both scaled PV and scaled BS. Drastic differences were also found for PV and BS between degraded and non-degraded conditions. NPV displayed similarity to both PV and BS, however no clear relationship was found for NPV in all areas, irrespective of degradation conditions.