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Photo plots are close-up photographs taken to provide a qualitative record of condition from year to year within a defined small area (plot). Photographs are taken from the same location and same specified height each time, providing both a permanent visual record of the past and a means to evaluate changes over time. Photoplots typically involve placing a standard-sized frame on the ground.
Photo plots are regularly used in combination with other monitoring methods. They can be used to document and evaluate disturbances and changes such as:
Photo plots are a versatile means of photo documenting disturbances and changes over time. However, in shrub ecosystems it can sometimes be difficult to see small changes over time. In many instances this method may require taking the photographs at the same time each year to avoid seasonal fluctuations when comparing photos. In addition, poor retakes of photos in some years (e.g., poor quality of photograph or failing to retake the photo in the correct position) can cause a loss of data for that year. As a qualitative technique, comparing photographs requires personal interpretation which can lead to observer bias or inconsistencies.
This method can also be used quantitatively:
Each have their drawbacks however. When counting “hits”, species with low cover can be missed completely and it is sometimes difficult to identify small individual plants. When defining canopy polygons it is easy to overestimate plant canopy (e.g., for plants with lacy canopies) and boundaries are difficult to define for some plant species. Drawing these boundaries can vary depending on the individual observer, causing inconsistencies from year to year.
Photo points: Photo points are also photographs that are retaken from the same spot and filling the same frame each time the photograph is repeated, however they are landscape or feature photographs, unlike photo plots which are taken at the plot scale.
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