Conservation of the last remnant of a steppe-like grassland in Croatia through the integration of UAVs and geoinformation technology with conventional methods.
The steppe-like grassland located at the center of the local cemetery in Municipality of Bilje, represents the last remnant of the steppe-like grassland in Croatia. Two large phytogeographical provinces meet in this phytogeographically interesting area. There is a significant proportion of the xerothermic elements, characterized by the eastern steppe habitats, which are also the western frontier of their distribution. Research over the past 30 years confirmed that the amount of steppe-like grassland habitats containing endangered species in eastern Croatia was significantly larger. They have largely disappeared due to the conversion to arable land and increase of the intensive agricultural production. Significant changes in the requirements related to land management in Croatia placed additional requirements before the management of the mentioned area. The foundation for the detailed inventory of endangered flora species should be developed as part of this project, with the processing of the following thematic segments: Multitemporal multispectral imaging by UAV for the calculation of vegetation indices and canopy height models; Chemical soil analysis; Creation of the habitat map of endangered flora species.
The thematic content of the elaborate was based on intensive spatial analyses of all relevant data (geomorphological, climatic, edaphic and hydrological) within the GIS equipped with appropriate cartographic content that can be used in management activities.
2 geospatial technology experts for UAV flights, calculation of vegetation indices and canopy height models, endangered species habitat map creation; 2 phytocenologists identifying endangered species and completing the elaborate’s thematic content; 1 expert for the soil chemical analysis.
Evidence of success
Calculated multitemporal vegetation indices and canopy height models, and the habitat map of endangered flora species.
Costs of multirotor UAV equipped with multispectral camera and Real-Time-Kinemati Global Navigation Satellite System receiver for the real-time georeferencing of images with the horizontal accuracy of 2 and vertical accuracy of 4 cm. Lockdown caused by COVID-19 pandemic prevented regular UAV flights
Potential for learning or transfer
The UAV application through multispectral imaging and the vegetation indices calculation and canopy height models offers many possibilities, not only in conservation of environment and nature but in agriculture, forestry and wildfire prediction. The Faculty successfully performed education for both students and adults in the application of GI technologies and UAVs in aforementioned activities. Not only that UAVs allow monitoring of steppe-like grassland, crop land or forests from the aerial perspective but also enable effective data collection with no physical harassment of the endangered species and the habitat. The functionalities of UAV images’ processing using Structure-from-Motion algorithms and the vegetation indices calculation and canopy height models can be expanded by the application of state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms. Some of them (Random Forest) proved to be effective in classification and locating endangered species and crop properties.