Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) changes are environmental processes that modify the land surface and affect a broad range of socioeconomic, biologic, geologic, and hydrologic systems. The goals of this project are to analyze contemporary LULC using Landsat satellite data and develop a systematic approach to identify causes of land change at regional and national scales. The objectives will be met by developing a methodology for integrating data from multiple data sources. The primary data resource for this effort is the new generation of annual LULC maps produced by the USGS Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) project for 1985–2014.
The availability of annual data will allow USGS researchers to link more precisely land change rates and patterns to driving forces. The team will leverage this detail to isolate abiotic influences, investigate anthropogenic effects on natural systems, and explore land change sensitivity to weather. The early stages of this project will focus on understanding forest change rates, patterns, and causes to provide a firm foundation for the analysis and method development that follows. All results will feed directly into other integrated Land Cover Trends tasks focused on land change assessments and forecasts, and will be disseminated to regional stakeholders.
The benefits of identifying the rates and causes of LULC change are far-reaching. Resource managers, non-governmental organizations, and private stakeholders are increasingly interested in knowing how altered environmental conditions will affect priorities such as preserving floral and faunal species of concern, mitigating the effects of development projects, sustaining agricultural productivity in changing landscapes, and planning for protection of communities in fire-prone areas. Understanding the factors that lead to LULC change provides insights into the environmental impacts of past change and provides an opportunity to anticipate future changes.
Initial work focuses on proximate causes of forest change in the Pacific Northwest.