Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Remote sensing as a tool of biological conservation and grassland monitoring in mountain areas of Southeastern Kazakhstan


Grassland degradation, as a worldwide phenomenon, has economic and bio-conservation aspects. Degradation of mountain grasslands severely impacts the stability of ecosystems in fragile mountain environments and may destroy the habitats of many endemic and endangered species. One of the significant triggers of mountain grassland degradation, along with the possible consequences of climate change, is massive overgrazing. Overgrazing may seriously influence the ecosystem since it results in plant composition changes, soil erosion, water regime disturbances, etc., up to the disappearance of the entire ecosystem. It is crucial to have a reliable and cost-effective instrument for the ecosystem assessment of remote and hardly accessible mountain areas supported by accurate methods of vegetation parameter estimation since the vegetation cover is first to react to externally driven disturbances. The current study was conducted in the Dzungarian Alatau Mountains, inhabited by the rare and endemic anuran amphibian Ranodon sibiricus (Kessler, 1886). The project of the Conservation International Foundation (CIF/326/21) was aimed at the strategy of species conservation. The current study emphasises estimating the overgrazing risks for the amphibian population. More than two hundred ground measurements were done within the Upper Koksu Forestry and adjacent areas to provide representative data on the vegetation parameters. We tested a series of spectral indices related to vegetation biophysical parameters. We found the DWSI, GrNDVI, IRECI and NDI45 indices to provide the best correlations and reasonable accuracy for remote measurements of above-ground biomass, grass cover, and unpalatable grass content. Sentinel-2 data with the red-edge bands, in most cases, provided better performance. Our study confirmed that the use of a single criterion (like above-ground biomass) might result in a serious underestimation of grassland degradation. Data obtained from field surveys and satellite information analysis allowed the evaluation of the optimal grazing load for the Upper Koksu Forestry and provided recommendations for the Action Plan on the Conservation of Ranodon sibiricus.


spectral index, above-ground biomass, overgrazing, ecosystem, monitoring



  1. Z. Wang, Y. Ma, Y. Zhang, and J. Shang, "Review of Remote Sensing Applications in Grassland Monitoring," Remote Sensing, vol. 14, no. 12, p. 2903, 2022. [Online]. Available:
  2. M. Ibrahim, H. Karimi, Y. Mustafa, and M. Hassan, "Mapping Ecosystem Service: Challenges and Solutions," Journal of Applied Science and Technology Trends, vol. 3, no. 02, pp. 53 - 63, 07/30 2022, doi: 10.38094/jastt302172.
  3. Q. Kuang et al., "A remote sensing monitoring method for alpine grasslands desertification in the eastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau," Journal of Mountain Science, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 1423-1437, 2020.
  4. M. Wiesmair, H. Feilhauer, A. Magiera, A. Otte, and R. Waldhardt, "Estimating Vegetation Cover from High-Resolution Satellite Data to Assess Grassland Degradation in the Georgian Caucasus," Mountain Research and Development, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 56-65, 10, 2016. [Online]. Available:
  5. X. Cheng, W. Liu, J. Zhou, Z. Wang, S. Zhang, and S. Liao, "Extraction of mountain grasslands in Yunnan, China, from sentinel-2 data during the optimal phenological period using feature optimization," Agronomy, vol. 12, no. 8, p. 1948, 2022.
  6. Y. Yuan, Q. Wen, X. Zhao, S. Liu, K. Zhu, and B. Hu, "Identifying Grassland Distribution in a Mountainous Region in Southwest China Using Multi-Source Remote Sensing Images," Remote Sensing, vol. 14, no. 6, p. 1472, 2022. [Online]. Available:
  7. C. Eisfelder, C. Kuenzer, and S. Dech, "Derivation of biomass information for semi-arid areas using remote-sensing data," International Journal of Remote Sensing, vol. 33, no. 9, pp. 2937-2984, 2012.
  8. M. Obeyed, Z. Akrawee, and Y. Mustafa, "ESTIMATING ABOVEGROUND BIOMASS AND CARBON SEQUESTRATION FOR NATURAL STANDS OF QUERCUS AEGILOPS. IN DUHOK PROVINCE," Iraqi Journal of Agricultural Sciences, vol. 51, no. 1, 2020.
  9. L. Vescovo et al., "New spectral vegetation indices based on the near-infrared shoulder wavelengths for remote detection of grassland phytomass," International Journal of Remote Sensing, vol. 33, no. 7, pp. 2178-2195, 2012/04/10 2012, doi: 10.1080/01431161.2011.607195.
  10. A. Bayle, B. Z. Carlson, V. Thierion, M. Isenmann, and P. Choler, "Improved mapping of mountain shrublands using the Sentinel-2 red-edge band," Remote Sensing, vol. 11, no. 23, p. 2807, 2019.
  11. M. Barrachina, J. Cristóbal, and A. F. Tulla, "Estimating above-ground biomass on mountain meadows and pastures through remote sensing," International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, vol. 38, pp. 184-192, 2015.
  12. M. H. Obeyed, Y. T. Mustafa, and Z. M. Akrawee, "Estimating and Mapping Aboveground Biomass of Natural Quercus Aegilops Using WorldView-3 Imagery," in 2018 International Conference on Advanced Science and Engineering (ICOASE), 2018: IEEE, pp. 437-442.
  13. N. A. Gvozdetsky, Mikhailov, N. I, Geography of the USSR. Asian Part. 3rd Ed. Moscow, Mysl, 512, 1978.
  14. B. A. Bykov, Geobotany. Almaty. P. 53-59. . 1978.
  15. Y. J. Kaufman and D. Tanre, "Atmospherically resistant vegetation index (ARVI) for EOS-MODIS," IEEE transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 261-270, 1992.
  16. Y. Mustafa, "Spatiotemporal Analysis of Vegetation Cover in Kurdistan Region-Iraq using MODIS Image Data," Journal of Applied Science and Technology Trends, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 01-07, 03/10 2020, doi: 10.38094/jastt119.
  17. C. J. Tucker, "Red and photographic infrared linear combinations for monitoring vegetation," Remote Sensing of Environment, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 127-150, 1979/05/01/ 1979, doi:
  18. L. S. Galvao, A. R. Formaggio, and D. A. Tisot, "Discrimination of sugarcane varieties in Southeastern Brazil with EO-1 Hyperion data," Remote sensing of Environment, vol. 94, no. 4, pp. 523-534, 2005.
  19. H. Q. Liu and A. Huete, "A feedback based modification of the NDVI to minimize canopy background and atmospheric noise," IEEE transactions on geoscience and remote sensing, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 457-465, 1995.
  20. A. Huete, C. Justice, and W. Van Leeuwen, "MODIS vegetation index (MOD13)," Algorithm theoretical basis document, vol. 3, no. 213, pp. 295-309, 1999.
  21. B. Pinty and M. Verstraete, "GEMI: a non-linear index to monitor global vegetation from satellites," Vegetatio, vol. 101, pp. 15-20, 1992.
  22. A. A. Gitelson, Y. J. Kaufman, and M. N. Merzlyak, "Use of a green channel in remote sensing of global vegetation from EOS-MODIS," Remote sensing of Environment, vol. 58, no. 3, pp. 289-298, 1996.
  23. A. A. Gitelson and M. N. Merzlyak, "Remote sensing of chlorophyll concentration in higher plant leaves," Advances in Space Research, vol. 22, no. 5, pp. 689-692, 1998.
  24. S. W. Todd, R. M. Hoffer, and D. G. Milchunas, "Biomass estimation on grazed and ungrazed rangelands using spectral indices," International Journal of Remote Sensing, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 427-438, 1998/01/01 1998, doi: 10.1080/014311698216071.
  25. R. E. Crippen, "Calculating the vegetation index faster," Remote sensing of Environment, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 71-73, 1990.
  26. W. J. Frampton, J. Dash, G. Watmough, and E. J. Milton, "Evaluating the capabilities of Sentinel-2 for quantitative estimation of biophysical variables in vegetation," ISPRS journal of photogrammetry and remote sensing, vol. 82, pp. 83-92, 2013.
  27. E. Boegh et al., "Airborne multispectral data for quantifying leaf area index, nitrogen concentration, and photosynthetic efficiency in agriculture," Remote sensing of Environment, vol. 81, no. 2-3, pp. 179-193, 2002.
  28. J. Qi, A. Chehbouni, A. Huerte, Y. Kerr, and S. Sorooshian, "A modified soil adjusted vegetation index: Remote Sensing Environment, v. 48," ed, 1994.
  30. J. M. Chen, "Evaluation of vegetation indices and a modified simple ratio for boreal applications," Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 229-242, 1996.
  31. J. Delegido, J. Verrelst, L. Alonso, and J. Moreno, "Evaluation of Sentinel-2 red-edge bands for empirical estimation of green LAI and chlorophyll content," (in eng), Sensors (Basel), vol. 11, no. 7, pp. 7063-81, 2011, doi: 10.3390/s110707063.
  32. J. W. Rouse, R. H. Haas, J. A. Schell, and D. W. Deering, "Monitoring vegetation systems in the Great Plains with ERTS," NASA Spec. Publ, vol. 351, no. 1, p. 309, 1974.
  33. G. Rondeaux, M. Steven, and F. Baret, "Optimization of soil-adjusted vegetation indices," Remote sensing of environment, vol. 55, no. 2, pp. 95-107, 1996.
  34. A. J. Richardson and C. Wiegand, "Distinguishing vegetation from soil background information," Photogrammetric engineering and remote sensing, vol. 43, no. 12, pp. 1541-1552, 1977.
  35. A. R. Huete, "A soil-adjusted vegetation index (SAVI)," Remote sensing of environment, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 295-309, 1988.
  36. A. Bannari, H. Asalhi, and P. Teillet, "Transformed Difference Vegetation Index (TDVI) for Vegetation Cover Mapping. International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS’2002), Toronto, Ontario, 9-13 July 2002," Proceedings on CD-Rom, Paper I2A35-1508. https://doi. org/10.1109/IGARSS, 2002.
  37. F. Baret and G. Guyot, "Potentials and limits of vegetation indices for LAI and APAR assessment," Remote sensing of environment, vol. 35, no. 2-3, pp. 161-173, 1991.
  38. J. Clevers, "Application of a weighted infrared-red vegetation index for estimating leaf area index by correcting for soil moisture," Remote Sensing of Environment, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 25-37, 1989.
  39. A. Gitelson, R. Stark, U. Grits, D. Rundquist, Y. Kaufman, and D. Derry, "Vegetation and soil lines in visible spectral space: A concept and technique for remote estimation of vegetation fraction," International Journal of Remote Sensing, vol. 23, no. 13, pp. 2537-2562, 2002.
  40. N. Zhang, Y. Hong, Q. Qin, and L. Liu, "VSDI: a visible and shortwave infrared drought index for monitoring soil and vegetation moisture based on optical remote sensing," International Journal of Remote Sensing, vol. 34, no. 13, pp. 4585-4609, 2013/07/10 2013, doi: 10.1080/01431161.2013.779046.
  41. C. Kerven, Steimann, B., Dear, C., Ashley, L., "???????????? ???????? ??????????? ?????????????? ? ????? ??????????? ????: ???????? ?????????????? ????????? ? ????????? ????????," Mountain Research and Development, vol. 32, no. 3ru, pp. R124-R135, 2012.
  42. M. C. Duniway, J. W. Karl, S. Schrader, N. Baquera, and J. E. Herrick, "Rangeland and pasture monitoring: an approach to interpretation of high-resolution imagery focused on observer calibration for repeatability," Environmental monitoring and assessment, vol. 184, pp. 3789-3804, 2012.
  43. L. V. Iegorova et al., "Rangeland vegetation dynamics in the Altai mountain region of Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan and China: effects of climate, topography, and socio-political context for livestock herding practices," Environmental research letters, vol. 14, no. 10, p. 104017, 2019.
  44. S. P. Narbayeva, Brushko, Z.K., "The number, distribution and size composition of the population of Semirechensk salamander in the headwaters of the River Borokhudzir," Rare Animals of Kazakhstan. Alma-Ata, Nauka, 181-186., 1986.
  45. Z. Brushko, "Dynamics of number, distribution of Siberian Salamander and the problems of its protection," Ékologiya, no. 3, pp. 84-87, 1993.
  46. D. Dolmen, J. Arnekleiv, R. Kubykin, and D. Mikutavichus, "Habitats and threats to the red list species Ranodon sibiricus (Hynobiidae)," in Second World Meeting of Herpetology (29th December 1993–6th January 1994, Adelaide, Australia), 1993, vol. 74.
  47. D. Dolmen, R. Kubykin, and J. Arnekleiv, "Diel activity of Ranodon sibiricus (Amphibia: Hynobiidae) in relationship to environment and treats," Asiatic Herpetological Research, vol. 8, pp. 29-37, 1999.
  48. B. Thiesmeier, Greven, B. , "Neues ?ber Ranodon sibiricus in Kasachstan und im angrenzenden China," Elaphe, vol. 2, pp. 94-95, 1997.
  49. S. Kuzmin, R. Kubykin, B. Thiesmeier, and H. Greven, "The distribution of the Semirechensk Salamander (Ranodon sibiricus): a historical perspective," Advances in Amphibian Research in the Former Soviet Union, vol. 3, pp. 1-20, 1998.
  50. D. Maselli, "Improving Sustainable Grazing Management in Mountain Rangelands of the Hindu Kush–Himalaya," Mountain Research and Development, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 124-133, 2004.
  51. A. Karnieli et al., "Do vegetation indices provide a reliable indication of vegetation degradation? A case study in the Mongolian pastures," International Journal of Remote Sensing, vol. 34, no. 17, pp. 6243-6262, 2013.
  52. N. I. Rubtsov, "Vegetation of Dzungarian Alatau," Alma-Ata, vol. 185, 1948.
  53. I. I. Alimayev. "Recommendations on pasture use in beef cattle breeding." (accessed 2020, 2020).


Metrics Loading ...