United States–Mexico Desert Ecoregions Vegetation Communities

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Remote sensing research is used in the culturally, ecologically, and topographically complex transboundary United States/Mexico ecoregions to provide scientific support for land management decisions. Managing species and habitats across borders presents unique conservation challenges. The border areas of southeast California, southern Arizona, southwest New Mexico, northeast Baja California, and northern Sonora support desert shrublands and semi-desert grasslands, and the Madrean Highlands support a mosaic of oak-juniper and conifer woodlands. The borderlands are an area of high biodiversity, providing habitat for bird species of concern such as the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Masked Bobwhite, Bendire’s & LeConte’s Thrashers, Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, and Yuma Ridgway’s Rail; for endangered plants such as Bartram’s stonecrop and the Pima pineapple cactus; and for iconic and rare vertebrates such as the jaguar. Drought, climate, and invasive species research is vital to providing high-quality science to inform management of the borderland’s habitats. The flora and fauna of the border region are heavily influenced by seasonal and long-term trends in temperature and precipitation. This study provides contemporary knowledge of the transboundary vegetative landscape as well as a vegetation community dynamic map for portions of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts in support of critical land conservation planning to meet habitat management needs. The goals are to use remote sensing data fusion from ground, aerial, and satellite sensors within the majority of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s Bird Conservation Region #33 to develop maps of the transboundary vegetation community; to derive the seasonal phenology dynamics of these communities; and to document changing trends in land cover, which include changes due to invasive species in response to anthropogenic and climate stressors. The project provides a valuable tool and high-resolution reference map of vegetation community distribution and seasonal dynamics to support land management and conservation planning. Increased understanding of the binational nature of vegetation communities is critical for protection, conservation, and restoration of vegetation, habitat, and ecosystems and is particularly important for threatened and endangered species. Finally, researchers are creating an end-to-end medium and fine-resolution remote sensing-based data fusion method and online toolset to map the transboundary vegetation communities in the study region.

Transboundary Vegetation Community Dynamic Map including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Bird Conservation Region #33, that is part of the Migratory Bird Program. The white grid on the inset map delineates the boundary of each Landsat 8 OLI tile. The area is covered by 14–21 Landsat scenes and two MODIS tiles. The final product (inset, area in green) required 50 Landsat scenes and 4 MODIS tiles.


Author Name
Pamela Nagler
Author Email