Monitoring ground lichens with UAVs
Estimating ground lichen biomass using UAVs in support of caribou habitat monitoring
Northeast Alberta, Canada
Principle Investigator
Associate Professor & Alberta Biodiversity Conservation Chair
Research Assistant
Research Assistant
Status: Active, 2017

Forest floor lichen is an important food source for woodland caribou, but is slow growing requiring many years to recover from disturbance. Monitoring lichen recovery following disturbance is important for assessing available forage for caribou and is labor intensive over landscape scales. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have been used to measure biomass of trees and ground vegetation, but have not been used to measure biomass of ground lichens. The aim of this study is to determine the viability of using UAVs to monitor ground lichen recovery and to compare with more traditional remote sensing imagery to scale estimates of lichen biomass to landscape scales. The study area represents a mature jack-pine forest with a lichen-dominated understory located in northern Alberta. Plots were established in low, medium, and high density of tree cover and aerial images acquired with a multi-spectral camera to capture ground lichens in different wavelengths. Biomass estimates from UAV imagery will be compared with ground biomass measurements and those from satellite imagery to determine the feasibility of using UAVs and satellites to estimate and monitor lichen biomass and thus winter caribou habitat.