Document Type

Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Report

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Spatial and temporal variations in grassland phenology are thought to play a critical role in migration patterns of large herbivores in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Phenology, referring to the timing of green-up in this study, is directly related to biomass and forage quality. Migratory elk (Cervus elaphus), therefore, are believed to follow phenology across an elevation gradient during the growing season to maximize their access to high quality and quantity of forage. Concern that climate change and human land use alterations of phenology may impact the benefits of elk migration highlights the need for landscape-scale vegetation phenology monitoring. Satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) shows potential as a remote sensing tool to predict landscape-level shifts in grassland phenology, but is limited by a lack of validation at varying scales, seasons, and in human land use areas. This study is focused on validating the accuracy of satellite-derived NDVI in estimating grassland phenology, biomass, and forage quality throughout the summer growing season within elk migratory ranges in the Upper Yellowstone River Basin. Results from this study will provide managers and researchers with information on the accuracy of NDVI as a tool for monitoring the effects of climate change and human land use on grassland dynamics relevant to migratory elk.