Using Spectroscopy to Distinguish Subspecies of Sagebrush for Habitat Assessment

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date

April 2016

Faculty Sponsor

Nancy Glenn


The sagebrush steppe is a fragmented and declining ecosystem partially due to fire disturbance, climate change, and urban expansion. Several specialist herbivores in the sagebrush steppe are dependent on sagebrush as a primary source of food. Variation in the nutritional content of sagebrush influences habitat use by herbivores. We hypothesized that sagebrush species can be identified using spectroscopy thus providing an opportunity to differentiate subspecies as well as their potential nutritional content differences. Measuring plant quality with spectroscopy could help identify the different species and subspecies of sagebrush that might be most beneficial for sagebrush obligate species for restoration efforts. Our objective is to scan different species of sagebrush with a spectrometer to see if their spectral fingerprint could be determined. Plant samples were taken from two different species at one field site located in south central Idaho over one field season. The spectral composition of Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) and three-tip sagebrush (Artemisia tripartite) was compared using a spectrometer. We expect to find a different spectral fingerprint from each species for identification purposes and utilize these differences to explain their nutritional quality and selection of herbivores. Future research will compare other species and subspecies for a comprehensive analysis.

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