New approaches to habitat characterization are needed to address questions about ecosystems effectively and cost-efficiently, particularly in montane ecosystems where rapid changes in community assemblages have coincided with recent warming trends. Talus provides unique and essential habitat for several montane species but is inadequately mapped to support studies of ecosystem dynamics. Surface and subsurface temperatures may differ by >30° C within talus, which provides important microrefugia for species such as the American pika that are sensitive to extreme heat. Structure-from-motion techniques describe topography at sufficient resolution to map talus at biologically meaningful scales for pikas and other montane species. The USGS designed this study to use new technology to model talus, microclimate, and vegetative characteristics with sensors aboard a UAS for comparison to measurements from airborne lidar and the ground. USGS scientists assess data requirements and efficiency of alternative data sources for development of GIS layers that describe habitat characteristics important to montane fauna.
Colorized point cloud data generated from the collected Pentax Ricoh GR imagery on board a UAS using structure-from-motion photogrammetric techniques.