Mapping invasive plant distributions in the Florida Everglades using the digital aerial sketch mapping technique.
The management of exotic, invasive plants is among the most challenging undertakings of natural resource managers, particularly in large, remote landscapes. The availability of information on the distribution and abundance of invasive plants is vital for effective strategic planning yet is often unavailable because of high costs and long procurement times. This paper presents results of a large-scale invasive plant mapping effort in the Florida Everglades utilizing digital aerial sketch mapping (DASM) and evaluates its utility for guiding management decisions. The distribution and abundance (cover) of four priority invasive plant species - Australian pine, Brazilian pepper, melaleuca, and Old World climbing fern - were mapped over 728,000 ha in the Everglades during 2010 to 2012. Brazilian peppertree was the most widely distributed and abundant species, occupying 30,379 ha. Melaleuca was also widely distributed and occupied 17,802 ha. Old World climbing fern occupied only 7,033 ha but its distribution was generally concentrated in heavy infestations in the northern Everglades. Australian pine was the least abundant of the mapped species and tended to be limited to the southeastern Everglades region. DASM proved to be a cost-effective means of obtaining region-wide distribution and abundance information for these species at broad scales (>500 m), but detection rates and positional accuracy declined at finer scales. Both canopy type (forested vs. unforested) and distance from flight transect appear to be important factors for detection accuracy.