ESTCP 2019 Project of the Year Award for Resource Conservation and Resiliency

With more than 100,000 plant species worldwide thought to be at risk of extinction, a lack of suitable habitat is the major barrier to their continued existence or recovery. The two primary conservation actions for threatened, endangered, and at-risk (TER-S) plant species are (1) to restore suitable habitat areas so that extant populations can expand, and (2) to reintroduce individuals to restored or protected areas. In particular, overcoming barriers to plant establishment in dryland environments is critical for TER-S management. In fact, the DoD installations with the greatest number of federally listed species are in dryland ecosystems.

Dr. Erin Questad from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and her team led an ESTCP funded project that addressed a major challenge to reintroduction success — finding suitable habitats in fragmented and degraded landscapes. Using remote sensing, the team increased the success of TER-S planting programs in dryland ecosystems in general and in Hawaiian dryland ecosystems specifically. Through her team’s efforts, DoD’s training capabilities are enhanced by improving the quality of protected areas and focusing training activities toward lower quality habitat.


The team successfully demonstrated the use of habitat suitability modeling (HSM) technology which formally incorporates the importance of wind into topographic modeling to improve plant growth and survival. In turn, the technology provides critical information for landscape planning and management of at-risk species. This project demonstrates how habitat HSM technology can inform TER-S reintroduction programs to increase plant performance and survival across DoD installations.

For this significant work, Dr. Questad and her team received the 2019 ESTCP Project-of-the-Year Award for Resource Conservation and Resiliency for their project titled, Remote Sensing Technology for Threatened and Endangered Plant Species Recovery.

Project Team:

  • Dr. Erin Questad - California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  • Dr. James Kellner - Brown University
  • Dr. Susan Cordell - Pacific Southwest Research Station
  • Amanda Uowolo - Pacific Southwest Research Station

Photo by Ben Zweig