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Shrub and Grass Vegetation Declining Across Great Basin

Shrub and Grass Vegetation Declining Across Great Basin

Mojave National Preserve
Grass and shrub vegetation in the Mojave National Preserve. Across the Great Basin, bare ground is replacing grassland and shrubland. Photo credit: Zack Frank

 Dr. Collin Homer is a Research Biologist at USGS EROS. Here is what Collin shared with us about the work he is presenting today at #AGU18:

Characterization of Historic Shrub Component Change across the U.S. West with Landsat, Providing New Insights into Historical Change Patterns


What are the major findings of this research?
Landsat-driven historical predictions are successful at identifying gradual change from climate. Across the Great Basin from 1984-2016, shrub and grass vegetation is declining, while bare ground is increasing. Some of this change is the result of declining precipitation and increasing minimum temperatures.

What are the implications of your findings?
These new remote sensing products are capable of monitoring gradual change from climate drivers in a rangeland environment. This offers new opportunities to increase understanding on how, where and when change is occurring, as well as providing a viable way to monitor these changing landscapes into the future.

What insight did you gain from Landsat that would have been difficult to ascertain otherwise?
The historical archive of Landsat was key to this research. No other remote sensing source had this information.

How will the study’s findings inform land management across the West?
This research provides a fractional measurement of vegetation and bare ground change across time, and quantifies the location, timing and intensity of that change at a landscape level. In addition, it explores what part climate might be playing as a change driver. From a managers perspective, this information provides a way to help understand past and current trends of change on the rangeland in units they can understand.

Anyone can freely download Landsat data from the USGS EarthExplorer or LandsatLook.
Further Reading:
+ Landsat at #AGU18

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