Using remote sensing to assess plant health and drought response in game reserves and adjacent farmland overtime in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Cameron Wesson, Wilma Britz


The aim of the study described in this article was to investigate the vegetation health and drought response of naturally occurring Albany thicket and neighbouring farmland vegetation, that appears in an area of the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Google Earth Engine was used to manipulate Landsat 5, 7 and 8 datasets to produce a 30-year temporal dataset, after which the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) and the normalised difference water index (NDWI) were then applied to create a time series analysis. The Mann-Kendall and Spearman correlation statistical tests were used on the time series to observe trends and correlations between the NDVI and the NDWI datasets. The Spearman correlation test results showed that there were high correlations between the NDVI and the NDWI datasets (all above 0.805). Furthermore, the Man-Kendall test showed that all the datasets had positively increasing trends, while the NDVI datasets all had monotonic positive trends. Large differences in the NDVI and the NDWI were seen for the different vegetation types during times of drought, and farmland was the most severely affected with an average of 19% decrease in the NDVI and an average of 71% decrease in the NDWI.

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