Investigation of Suitable Habitat for the Endangered Plant Ptilimnium nodosum (Rose) Mathias (Harperella) Using Remote Sensing and Field Analysis—Documentation of Methods and Results

Open-File Report 2020-1088
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  • Document: Report (26.9 MB pdf)
  • Data Release: USGS data release - Data associated with the investigation of suitable habitat for the endangered plant harperella (Ptilimnium nodosum Rose) in the Potomac River near Hancock, Maryland
  • Download citation as: RIS | Dublin Core


Ptilimnium nodosum (Rose) Mathias (harperella) is an endangered plant species found in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, as well as in other locations throughout the southeastern United States. The narrow range of habitat characteristics for areas in which harperella has been found makes locating potential occurrence sites difficult and attempts at reintroduction of the plant relatively unsuccessful. Sightings of harperella have been made along the banks and in-channel bars of the Potomac River, along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park, and within the Sideling Hill Wildlife Refuge near Hancock, Md. The large area covered by these sightings presents logistical challenges for repeat studies of harperella growth within the Park and in nearby areas. This study developed a geospatial method for characterizing harperella habitat through remote sensing, geospatial analysis, and field investigation. A geospatial prediction model was developed to model the habitat characteristics discussed in literature and found at harperella field observation sites in order to narrow the potential area for observation of the plant and its habitat. Analysis of historical aerial imagery was conducted within the space of the Potomac River to observe the persistence and flooding conditions of in-channel bars. The products of the geospatial prediction model and the historical aerial image analysis are a geospatial description of where harperella habitat is most likely to be found, as well as a map of in-channel bar locations and their persistence through time. From these two analyses, areas were identified that merited detailed observation. Very high resolution, unmanned aerial systems imagery was collected for 10 sites within this area in the Potomac River in June 2019. Unmanned aerial systems imagery has the potential to greatly improve detailed study of the harperella plant, as it provides the spatial resolution necessary to catalog detailed vegetation conditions (and potentially species identification). More importantly, the timing of imagery collection can be aligned carefully with the plant’s phenological patterns and local weather conditions to maximize cost-effectiveness of repeated imaging for specific areas.

Suggested Citation

DeWitt, J.D., O’Pry, K.L., Chirico, P.G., and Young, J.A., 2020, Investigation of suitable habitat for the endangered plant Ptilimnium nodosum (Rose) Mathias (harperella) using remote sensing and field analysis—Documentation of methods and results: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2020–1088, 59 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Geospatial Prediction Model
  • High-Resolution Historical Image Analysis
  • Unmanned Aerial Systems Imaging
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Harperella Occurrence Data
  • Appendix 2. Local, Site-Scale Observations
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Investigation of suitable habitat for the endangered plant Ptilimnium nodosum (Rose) Mathias (harperella) using remote sensing and field analysis—Documentation of methods and results
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2020-1088
DOI 10.3133/ofr20201088
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Florence Bascom Geoscience Center
Description Report: vii, 59 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State Maryland, Virginia
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details