Many endangered plants worldwide are specialists on unusual soils that support limited plant cover and species diversity. An example is the dwarf bear-poppy (Arctomecon humilis), which grows only on barren gypsum soils close to a rapidly expanding urban area, St. George, Utah. A clear understanding of its distribution and habitat requirements is key to managing for its survival in the face of urban development. Gypsum soils are so fragile that even foot traffic is damaging, so that dwarf bear-poppy populations have never been adequately censused. With the ‘magic carpet’ of drone technology, we can carry out a census in two days that would take two botanists a month to complete on the ground, with virtually no impact to fragile soils and biological crusts.
To learn more about this, see the Science Spotlight: Using drone imagery to census a rare desert plant
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