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Improving Prairie Pond Counts with Aerial Video
and Global Positioning Systems

Laurence L. Strong and Lewis M. Cowardin
National Biological Service
Northern Prairie Science Center
Jamestown, ND 58401-7317


Abstract

Technological advances in tools available for habitat surveys have occurred since the inception of the Aerial Waterfowl Breeding Ground Population and Habitat Surveys in North America (BGS). We developed a method using aerial video, a global positioning system (GPS), and an optical disk recorder to assess pond numbers in the Prairie Pothole Region. We analyzed low altitude near infrared video for 12 air-ground segments and 30 29-km transect segments that are part of the annual BGS in southern Saskatchewan. Video interpretation was done with a combination of manual and automated procedures. Average omission and commission error for the 12 air-ground segments were 0.21 and 0.22, respectively. Estimating omission and commission errors was confounded by changes in the presence and level of water between dates of video and ground BGS. Use of GPS automated the organization of the video by transect segment on the optical disk recorder, thus reducing labor required to process video images. The time required to interpret the number of ponds for a 0.2- x 29-km transect segment ranged from 9 to 59 minutes and varied with pond abundance, size, and contrast with background. The system enabled a rapid and accurate assessment of the average number of ponds. Video imagery can be used to estimate other habitat attributes (e.g., pond area) and is a valuable source of data for analysis of habitat trends.

Key Words: aerial video, global positioning system, ponds, Prairie Pothole Region, remote sensing, Saskatchewan, waterfowl, wetlands


This resource is based on the following source (Northern Prairie Publication 0945):
Strong, Laurence L. and Lewis M. Cowardin.  1995.  Improving prairie pond
     counts with aerial video and global positioning systems.  J. Wildl.
     Manage. 59(4):708-719.
This resource should be cited as:
Strong, Laurence L. and Lewis M. Cowardin.  1995.  Improving prairie pond
     counts with aerial video and global positioning systems.  J. Wildl.
     Manage. 59(4):708-719. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.  
     http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/methods/pndcount/index.htm
     (Version 16JUL97).

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