USGS - science for a changing world

Landcover Modeling

Land-cover Modeling at USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center

Projected land-use and land-cover (LULC) classes for the A1B scenario to 2050 for the western United States, and resultant terrestrial carbon storage.

Land-use change and the resultant changes in land cover impact a wide variety of ecological processes. Projected land-cover data produced by EROS have been used for a wide variety of applications, including those listed in the left column. The following provides a partial list of potential applications for modeled land-use and land-cover data.

  • Biochemical Cycling and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes :: Land use and land cover are important for determining the magnitude and geographic distribution of greenhouse gas exchanges between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere. However, a lack of consistent, multiple-date land-cover data has made it difficult to examine temporal patterns of land-cover change and the resultant changes in greenhouse gas fluxes. Consistent, annual, scenario-based land-cover maps allow biogeochemical modelers to quantify potential future greenhouse gas fluxes resulting from land-cover change.
  • Biodiversity :: Land-use and land-cover change has a direct impact on habitat and conservation planning issues. By providing future scenarios of land-use and land-cover change, conservation planners can answer the basic questions of how much habitat is available, what are the potential future geographic distributions, and where should efforts be made to protect or restore habitat?
  • Climate and Weather Variability :: Land-use and land-cover changes have direct impacts on energy fluxes between the land surface and the atmosphere, drive changes in water vapor exchange, and alter near-ground turbulence. Even without accounting for increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, land-use and land-cover change can have a dramatic impact on local and regional weather and climate variability. Projecting future scenarios of land-cover change allow atmospheric modelers to project the concurrent effects on future weather and climate.
  • Hydrology :: Land cover affects hydrologic processes by altering water infiltration into the soil, affecting energy budgets and evaporation, and changing water routing and sediment flow. Linking future land-cover models with hydrologic modeling frameworks allows researchers to determine potential future hydrologic regimes under multiple potential land-cover scenarios. Understanding potential future hydrologic processes enables planned management of water resources and facilitates analysis of future vulnerabilities associated with hydrologic change, including flood risk and water-quality issues.

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Page Last Modified: March 21, 2016