The USGS EROS Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) initiative centers on structured, operational, ongoing, and timely collection and delivery of accurate and relevant data, information, and knowledge on land use, cover, and condition.
Climate and Land Cover Change
Researchers at the USGS have developed the FOREcasting SCEnarios of Land-Cover Change (FORE-SCE) model, which is based on consistent and systematic historical data derived from Landsat imagery of rates and spatial patterns of land cover change over many years. As part of USGS research to assess potential greenhouse gas fluxes and carbon storage in vegetated landscapes, FORE-SCE has been used to produce projected, annual land cover maps from 1992 through 2100 for four future scenarios for the conterminous United States.
Mass losses from Alaska’s glaciers are both locally and globally important in terms of downstream ecosystem impacts and sea-level rise. Generating regional mass balance estimates is challenging due to the remote and rugged geography and the variable response of individual glaciers to climate change. In Alaska, various glaciers have been profiled with airborne laser altimetry since 1994. Researchers from the USGS Alaska Science Center Glaciology Research Group and the University of Alaska Fairbanks collaborated on a new analysis of those data.
Recent reports of permafrost degradation are widespread and models indicate that much of the near-surface permafrost in the northern hemisphere will likely disappear by the end of the current century. Warming of near-surface permafrost may lead to widespread terrain instability of ice-rich permafrost in the Arctic and the Subarctic, ultimately resulting in thermokarst development. There is increasing interest in the spatial and temporal dynamics of thermokarst and other thaw-related features from diverse disciplines including landscape ecology, hydrology, engineering, and biogeochemistry.
A quantitative understanding of snow accumulation on glaciers is essential to understanding glacier mass balance and provides insights into a wide range of scientific and resource management topics. The USGS Alaska Science Center is using 500 MHz ground penetrating radar (GPR) to map snow accumulation at multiple glaciers.
Population viability analysis (PVA) is a modeling tool used to predict the probability that a population will persist under projected future conditions. A new study funded by NASA will develop methods to link PVA to spatial and temporal environmental variation data derived from data collected by NASA satellites. This project is a collaboration between the USGS, the University of Georgia, University of Montana, Trout Unlimited, University of Nevada-Reno, and the U.S. Forest Service.
Ecosystems - Vegetation
As part of the USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystem (CAE) Initiative, the Alaska Science Center is conducting research to assess the distribution and nutrient value of halophytic graminoid “grazing lawn” habitat across the Arctic Coastal Plain (ACP) of Alaska. These grazing lawns are important habitat for Pacific Black Brant and Lesser Snow and Greater White Fronted Geese. The timing of the resource’s seasonal nutrient abundance as related to peak hatch and molting periods is thought to be crucial to reproductive and migratory success.
USGS scientists used nearly 30 years of Earth observation data to analyze past climate patterns over 3,216 square miles (8,330 km2) of southwestern Wyoming in order to forecast sagebrush abundance in 2050, a key habitat for the greater sage-grouse. Sage-grouse are found in parts of 11 U.S. States and two Canadian provinces in western North America, but Wyoming is a stronghold for the populations.
Large uncertainties in terrestrial biomass estimates contribute to errors in carbon stock assessments and climate and ecosystem process modeling. An operational biomass Essential Climate Variable (ECV) can improve biomass retrievals by synergistically combining structural information from active remote sensing data with spectral information from passive remote sensing data.
In 2015, the USGS program for Technology Training in Support of Native American Relations (TESNAR) sponsored the USGS Western Geographic Science Center (WGSC) in providing training to staff of the San Carlos Apache Tribe on land management applications of airborne laser scanning (lidar) and field-based multispectral imaging and monitoring. The 1.8 million-acre San Carlos Apache Reservation in east-central Arizona, the third largest reservation in the U.S.