Geography ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 1-24-2018


This study identifies land cover changes associated with a ten-year drought period and discusses the importance of vegetation change in Diné Bikéyah, a semi-arid land located in a remote part of the southwestern United States (US). This study concludes that drought produced slight changes in vegetation within a 540 km2 study area in the Tselani-Cottonwood Chapter (TCC) in Diné Bikéyah. The data for this study consist of three Landsat images for the years 1998, 2002, and 2009. The methods used to analyze these Landsat images included image pre-processing, calculation of normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) images, and supervised (maximum likelihood) classification of land cover. The classification analysis yielded five land-cover categories; land-cover change was assessed using standard change-detection techniques, followed by accuracy assessment of the results. Land-cover change was minimal over the ten-year study period in the TCC, which suggests that vegetation in the study area is resilient to drought and livestock grazing. Identifying land-cover change provides insight on the impact of a drought in Diné Bikéyah. Given the importance of vegetation in Diné livelihoods, and the limited knowledge of land-cover change associated with drought and other climate events, analysis of land-cover change using remote sensing offers the ability to understand how Diné people and livestock might contribute to land-cover change in addition to developing sustainable livestock management strategies.

Degree Name


Department Name


Level of Degree


First Committee Member (Chair)

Chris Duvall

Second Committee Member

Karl Benedict

Third Committee Member

Caitlin L. Lippitt

Document Type





Land cover, remote sensing, supervised classification, Navajo Nation, Tselani-Cottonwood, livestock, drought, vegetation