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Climate Change, Natural Hazards, Land-Use Change: USGS at Annual Association of American Geographers Meeting
Released: 3/20/2009 6:24:12 PM

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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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Leslie Gordon 1-click interview
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Remote sensing, satellite imagery, and analysis of land-cover and land-use change are the tools of the USGS scientist. Applied to problems such as global climate change, environmental health, and natural hazard risk and mitigation, USGS geographic research leads to solutions for critical societal issues as diverse as habitat conservation, earthquake hazards, and agriculture.

Join USGS scientists at the annual Association of American Geographers conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, March 17-22, 2009, as they address these subjects. Highlights of USGS participation in the AAG meeting include:

Climate Change and Glaciers

Glaciers, snow, and ice sheets are important components of the Earth's water and climate. They respond to and indicate changes in climate, as well as exerting an influence on global and regional climate. They also have an effect on water resources, serving as natural reservoirs. Measuring changes in the size and volume of glaciers and snowpacks provides one direct way of documenting the impacts of variations in the global climate.

Glaciers, Hydrology and Climate Change at Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.

Mountain glaciers continue to retreat rapidly over most of the globe. In Glacier National Park in Montana, only 25 glaciers remain out of an estimated 150 that existed at the end of the 19th century. Rates of glacier shrinkage have increased primarily coupled to climate changes. A geospatial model that suggested all glaciers would be gone from the park by 2030 has proven to be too conservative. Accelerated glacier shrinkage since the model was developed has mirrored an increase in actual annual temperature that is almost twice the rate used in the model. The glaciers in Glacier National Park are likely to be gone well before 2030. Hydrologic consequences are already evident. Streams have become intermittent as late summer baseflows are no longer maintained by glacial melt water.
Daniel B. Fagre
Wednesday, 3/25, 5:40 PM - North Hall N115, Las Vegas Convention Center
Paper Session:  4654 Mountain Ice and Snow 3:  Glaciers and Water Resources

Recent Declines in Western U.S. Snowpack in the Context of 20th Century Climate Variability

A monthly snow-accumulation and melt model is used with monthly temperature and precipitation records from 1900 through 2008. The authors relate the noticeable decline in spring snowmelt since 1986 to decreases in precipitation and increases in temperature related to winter atmospheric pressures over the western United States since 1896.
Gregory J. McCabe and David M. Wolock
Monday, 3/23, 9:20 AM - Grande Ballroom H, Riviera Hotel, 1st Floor
Chair, Presenter - Paper Session:  2105 Recent Climate Change in the USA

Land Use and Land-Cover Change

The illustrated paper session #2517, 30 Years of Landscape Change in California and the West, will feature a series of presentations about measuring land-cover change through time using Landsat satellite imagery. Between 1970 and 2000, the population in California grew significantly along with a continued regional, national, and global demand for state-produced goods.  These changes resulted in anthropogenic landscape change throughout the state, with resource-oriented landscape changes far outpacing changes associated with urbanization. Resource-driven changes are observed in areas of agricultural relocation and expansion and forest clear-cutting. Fire is seen as the largest factor in land-cover change between 1992 and 2000. Satellite imagery documents the rates, drivers, and consequences of land-cover change, providing information to assist managers and policy makers in making wise decisions related to ecosystems and critical landscape changes within their jurisdictions. Individual presenters will share research findings that describe land-cover change in ecoregions of California and the West.
Illustrated Paper Session: 2517, 30 Years of Landscape Change in California and the West
Monday, 3/23, 3:10 – 4:50 PM - Capri 104, Riviera Hotel, 1st Floor

Late 20th Century Landscape Change in California

Benjamin Sleeter, 3:10 PM

Land-Cover Trends in the Forested Ecoregions of California: Sierra Nevada and Southern California Mountains

Christopher E. Soulard, 3:15 PM

Land-Cover Change for the Eastern Cascades Foothills and Cascades Ecoregions in California, 1973-2000

Daniel Sorenson, 3:20 PM

Land Cover Trends Project Status and Preliminary U.S. Results

Kristi Sayler, 3:25 PM

Comparison of Land-Use/Land-Cover Change in the California Central Valley and Oak Woodlands

Amy Mathie, 3:30 PM

California's Klamath and Coast Range Mountains - Nearly Three Decades of Landcover Change

Tamara Wilson, 3:35 PM

Land Cover Trends in the Western U.S.

Susan Benjamin, 3:40 PM

Land Cover Trends of the California Desert, 1973-2000

James Calzia, 3:45 PM

Additional Land Use and Land-Cover presentations:

Assessing Landscape Change for the Southern Texas Plains Ecoregion

Brush-management practices by ranchers to improve livestock grazing and wildlife habitat were found to be the main driver of a relatively high rate of land cover conversion in the South Texas Plains ecoregion, which covers an area southwest of San Antonio, Texas, south to the Mexican border. Most of the South Texas Plains are savannas or shrublands dominated by drought-tolerant and often thorn-laden small trees and shrubs. Prior to 1900, both grasslands and mesquite brushlands were widespread in this part of Texas. Today, livestock overgrazing and the suppression of natural wildfires have caused grassland encroachment by mesquite, prickly pear cactus, salt cedar, ashe juniper and abundant black brush. Analysis of Landsat satellite data from 1973 to 2000 indicates a moderately high amount (approximately 12 %) of land cover conversion when compared to other U.S. Great Plains ecoregions.
Michael Peter Stier
Wednesday, 3/25,  Grande Ballroom EF, Riviera Hotel, 1st Floor
Poster Session: 4603 Land and Water

The Components of a National Land Change Community Model

Understanding and forecasting the effects of climate change on the environment is partly dependent on understanding land change.  Land change forecasts are critical for mitigating and adapting to adverse consequences of anthropogenic activities and natural processes. The causes and consequences of land change are complex, varying spatially and temporally.  Understanding these phenomena requires knowledge of human and natural processes and their interactions. The U.S. Geological Survey is proposing the development of a National Land Change Community Model to enable the forecasting of change in regional land characteristics relevant to environmental concerns.  This model is envisioned as a community-maintained hub of information, data, and open source software for understanding and simulating regional land change.
Peter Revere Claggett
Monday, 3/23/09 at 10:10 AM, Grande Ballroom G, Riviera Hotel, 1st Floor
Paper Session: 2204 The National Land Change Community Model: a Framework and Resources for Regional Land-Change Modeling

A knowledge management approach for complex regional ecosystem modeling in Puget Sound

The Puget Sound Integrated Landscape Monitoring Pilot is approaching the complex task of integrating the human dimension as a component of the landscape-level ecosystem dynamics by using an innovative knowledge management system to conceptualize the interactions between various parts of the greater Puget Sound ecosystem.  The knowledge management system software "Personal Brain" has been used to develop models of both human social systems and ecosystem processes.  The framework that has been developed is providing insights into the linkages and relationships between ecosystem processes at different scales and human-initiated programs to address and repair ecosystem damage.
Danielle Page Aiello and Alicia Torregrosa
Wednesday, 3/25/09 at 3:40 PM - Capri 103, Riviera Hotel, 1st Floor
Illustrated Paper Session: 4516 Physical Geography and Land Use

Natural Hazards and Risk

Geographic analyses of population centers, economic situations, and exposure to natural hazards can be used for risk mitigation.

Demonstration of the Land Use Portfolio Model, Version 1.0 Software

The USGS Land Use Portfolio Model uses the concepts of financial portfolio theory to estimate the economic impact of natural hazard mitigation investment decisions. The model generates estimates of losses avoided and changes to community wealth as well as the variability of these outputs based on mitigation decisions affecting specifically targeted natural hazard events. As a tool for natural hazard mitigation planning and analysis, the software is designed for use in a geographic information system (GIS). It can be used to generate any number of scenarios, each representing a different mitigation strategy. The results from these scenarios can then be compared and analyzed further to determine which scenarios come closest to meeting mitigation planning objectives. A demonstration will be given to show how the software can be used to support a hazard event mitigation analysis of a potential earthquake impacting the San Francisco Bay Area.
Peter Ng
Monday, 3/23, 1:15 PM - North Hall N108, Las Vegas Convention Center
Paper Session: 2447 The Land-Use Portfolio Model for Natural-Hazards Mitigation
Decision Making: Case Studies, Decision-Support Tool, and Mathematics

Other USGS presentations using the Land Use Portfolio Model to estimate hazards and improve mitigation measures in New Madrid, Missouri, and Ventura County, CA, are in the same session:

A Web-Based Tool for Cost-Benefit Analysis of Earthquake Hazard Mitigation Policy in Memphis, Tennessee

David Robert Strong, Richard L Bernknopf, and others
Monday, 3/23, 1:35 PM North Hall N108, Las Vegas Convention Center

Applying the Land Use Portfolio Model to Estimate Natural-Hazards Loss and Risk:  A Demonstration Analysis for Landslides in Ventura County, California

Laura Dinitz
Monday, 3/23, 2:15 PM - North Hall N108, Las Vegas Convention Center

Mapping Variations in Burn Severity in the Alaskan Boreal Forest Using Spectral and Non-spectral Data

Remotely sensed data provide information on fire regime characteristics in the Alaskan boreal forest, such as burned area, fire seasonality, and interannual variation, with a high degree of confidence. However, some aspects of the fire regime, particularly those related to the impact of fire on surface and substrate, are not easily mapped using remotely sensed data. In particular, the depth of burn is an important characteristic that influences soil temperature and moisture content, as well as the dominant plant types in post-fire succession. The incorporation of data on topographic position, fire seasonality, and meteorological data can greatly improve mapping post-fire reduction of the organic soil layer. Mapping variations in burn depth will likely improve projections of post-fire plant succession and has important implications for carbon cycling, albedo, and future fire regime characteristics. In the context of current climate change projections for the region, the occurrence of more severe fires is likely to increase, underscoring the importance of elaborating burn severity and its impacts on vegetation, soil surface, and substrate.
Kirsten Barrett
Friday, 3/27, 9:00 AM - North Hall N111, Las Vegas Convention Center
Chair, Presenter - Paper Session: 6150 Fire and Remote Sensing

Biological and Environmental Applications of Geography

The desert tortoise inhabits a broad range of habitat in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts in the United States and Northern Mexico. Tortoises exist in relatively low densities throughout much of the listed range and spend much of their time below ground, making them difficult to enumerate. Effective management depends not only on understanding population density but also measuring the amount of potentially suitable habitat. A potential habitat model was developed for use in the Revised Recovery Plan for the federally protected Mojave Population of the desert tortoise. The 16 environmental variables used in the model included physical (e.g. elevation, slope, surface roughness, and aspect) and biologically relevant (e.g. estimates of annual plant production, perennial cover, and annual rainfall) factors. While this model indicates habitat suitability, there are several anthropogenic impacts (both direct and indirect) that can influence the realized suitability of the predicted habitat. The authors used this model to evaluate the effects of several anthropogenic parameters on desert tortoise habitat including: roads, urban areas, utility corridors, fencing, fire, land status (e.g. wilderness, National Park, critical habitat, private lands), and off-highway vehicle activity. The following two presentations will discuss the results of this study:

Ecological Interpretations of Model Parameters Contributing to a Habitat Suitability Model for Desert Tortoises

Ken Nussear, Todd Esque, and others
Tuesday, 3/24, 1:43 PM - Skybox 203, Riviera Hotel, 2nd Floor
Paper Session: 3431 The Mojave Desert: Biogeographical Research

Habitat Conservation Status of the Mojave Population of the Desert Tortoise

Todd C. Esque, Kenneth E. Nussear, and others
Tuesday, 3/24/, 2:02 PM - Skybox 203, Riviera Hotel, 2nd Floor
Paper Session: 3431 The Mojave Desert: Biogeographical Research

Post-Fire Recovery and Re-vegetation Success in the Mojave Desert

Natural recovery and rehabilitation success, under current and predicted climate scenarios, are best understood through long-term monitoring of a broad range of sites where climate and site attributes are measured concurrently with post-treatment vegetation responses. Wildfires that burned a million acres of creosote bush - Joshua tree and mixed blackbrush shrublands in southern Nevada and northwest Arizona during the summers of 2005 and 2006 were re-vegetated with native Mojave Desert plant species in an effort to accelerate the recovery of plants that are important as food and cover for the federally threatened desert tortoise. Plant establishment and seedling survival after re-seeding or transplanting greenhouse-grown seedlings revealed the importance of rainfall seasonality and abundance and its interactions with re-vegetation treatments and site attributes. These results emphasize the importance of approaching arid land rehabilitation from a regional perspective by integrating science and monitoring to understand the drivers of natural recovery and re-vegetation success.
Lesley DeFalco, Sara J. Scoles-Sciulla, and Todd E. Esque
Tuesday, 3/24, 4:12 PM - Skybox 203, Riviera Hotel, 2nd Floor
Paper Session: 3531 The Mojave Desert: Threats and Restoration

The National Phenology Network: Tracking the Timing of Plants, Animals and Climate Across the Nation

The USA National Phenology Network (NPN) is an emerging and exciting partnership among federal agencies, the academic community, and the public to monitor and understand the influence of seasonal cycles on the Nation's biotic resources. The goal of the NPN (http://www.usanpn.org) is to establish a nation-wide science and monitoring program focused on phenology, which is the study of the annual timing of animal and plant life events; the causes of this timing; and the interrelations among annual life events of the same or different species. Although phenology is a far-reaching component of environmental science, the relationships of phenology to ecological processes, biogeographic patterns, and biophysical processes are not well understood. The NPN is integrating with other observation networks, including networks of biological field stations; is facilitating development of regional phenology networks; and is using remote sensing products, emerging technology, and data management capabilities. Phenological data are important to understanding earth surface processes, climate change interactions, and ecosystem services.
Kathryn Thomas and Jake F. Weltzin
Tuesday, 3/24, 5:40 PM - North Hall N103, Las Vegas Convention Center
Paper Session: 3645 Natural Resources and Land Use Change

Satellite Imagery and Remote-Sensing Applications

Geomorphic Mapping of Tropical Alluvial Placer Deposits

Mapping artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) activities for gold and diamonds is a central problem in many developing nations. ASM often occurs within alluvial deposits in remote regions outside legal and regulatory control. Because the use of optical remote sensing techniques to monitor artisanal mining is hampered by perennial cloud cover and dense vegetation in tropical regions, and published maps are often unavailable, of inadequate scale, or are out-of-date, the USGS is developing a semi-automated methodology for mapping the geomorphology of tropical alluvial placer deposits in the diamondiferous Birim watershed in southeastern Ghana.
Peter George Chirico
Sunday, 3/22, 1:40 PM - North Hall N113, Las Vegas Convention Center
Paper Session: 1152 DEM Processing, Validation, and Application

Landsat: Continuing and Improving a Long-Term Global Record of Earth Observation

Since the launch of Landsat 1 in 1972, six Landsat satellites have acquired coverage of the Earth's land surfaces at a scale where natural and human-induced changes can be detected and monitored over time. Extending this unprecedented, comprehensive record of landscape dynamics is a major science priority for NASA and the USGS, who are now developing the Landsat Data Continuity Mission. Full realization of the value of Landsat was previously stymied by the cost of data over large areas and long time periods. As a step toward realizing the full potential of the 36-year Landsat record, the USGS has released the entire Landsat archive via the Internet at no cost. The opening of the Landsat archive and the continuation of the Landsat record will create an era of new opportunities for innovation and applications.
Thomas R. Loveland
Thursday, 3/26, 9:20 AM - Capri 115, Riviera Hotel, 1st Floor
Paper Session: 5127 New Global Data Sets for Monitoring the Environment

Maps and Geospatial data

USGS Standard Quadrangle Maps for Emergency Response

The signature product of the U.S. national map series is the 7.5-minute topographic quadrangle. This series was completed in 1992, and few of its maps have been revised since. Most maps in this series are cast on an outdated datum and do not contain a full-line Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid, making them unsuitable for emergency response operations, even where the content is still current. Hurricane Katrina and other recent (2008) emergencies have revived the debate about whether or not traditional, printed maps are still important. The USGS is reviving 1:24,000-scale quadrangle maps by designing new products that are essentially image maps with linework and text enhancements. State and local agencies are interested in participating in the design and production of new quadrangle maps; cooperative projects with several states are in progress.
Laurence Moore
Sunday, 3/22, 3:30 PM - North Hall N114, Las Vegas Convention Center
Paper Session: 1253 Disaster Response


Science along the US/Mexico border

Planning Land and Water-Resource Management in the Upper Santa Cruz Watershed, Arizona and Sonora, Mexico

In the US/Mexico borderland region of the desert southwest, the health of people and the natural ecosystem on which they rely largely depend on the quality, quantity and distribution of water resources. Hydrologic models based on geographic information systems are a tool for understanding and predicting the impact of land management practices on water and sediment yields over long periods of time. Model simulations used in an existing water flow model will improve understanding of the effects of humans and climate on aquifer dynamics and contaminant transport.
Laura Margaret Norman
Monday, 3/23,  3:10 PM - Capri 112, Riviera Hotel, 1st Floor
Chair, Organizer, Presenter - Paper Session: 2524 U.S.-Mexico Border Environmental Health

An Introduction to the U.S.-Mexico Border Environmental Health Research

Bi-national agreements between the United States and Mexico provide a framework for public access to the best available geospatial data along the US/Mexico border. Bringing together the best available information from both nations about mapping land use, contaminants, aerial imagery, and documenting measurements of environmental health, water quality, and soil geochemistry serves as the basis for examining the linkages between human and environmental health.
Jean Parcher and Diana Papoulias
Monday, 3/23, 3:30 PM - Capri 112, Riviera Hotel, 1st Floor
Organizer, Presenter - Paper Session:  2524 U.S.-Mexico Border Environmental Health

Other Topics of interest: (Agriculture, Archeology, Ethics)

Agricultural Trends and Driving Forces in Diverse United States Regions

Landsat satellite imagery from 1972 to the present and Census data since 1950 indicate key driving forces and trends in landcover changes in agricultural regions of the United States. Eastern forests had a high rate of cropland loss and transition out of farm ownership since 1950, shifting from agricultural land to timber production, urbanization, and transitional grassland/shrubland. California had a high overall rate of farmland loss although cropland production remained stable as primarily low intensity land uses declined and irrigation increased.  In the largely grassland region of the Great Plains, intensive agriculture concentrated in higher quality lands, but the region experienced a relatively lower rate of farmland loss. Expanding economic opportunities including biofuels affect this trend.
Mark A. Drummond
Wednesday, 3/25, 5:20 PM - 7:00 PM Grande Ballroom EF, Riviera Hotel, 1st Floor
Poster Session: 4603 Land and Water

Prehistoric Environment and Settlement in the Holmul Region of the Southern Maya Lowlands

There is currently a debate about the influence of environmental change on prehistoric settlement patterns in the Maya lowlands. Lake and marsh core records allow us to detect local landscape change, specifically periods of accelerated soil erosion and shifts in regional hydrology, both of which have been posited as potential contributors to prehistoric abandonments. Detailed archaeological assessments of settlement and land use with local lake records of environmental change suggest anthropogenic and/or climate impacts played a role in shaping prehistoric demographic patterns. Analyses of pollen, charcoal, and other factors are used to reconstruct local environments through the entire period of prehistoric Maya settlement. Relatively heavy carbon isotopes through the period of prehistoric settlement correspond to pollen evidence of forest disturbance and agricultural activity. Increased charcoal concentrations during the Classic period suggest a shift in agricultural strategies and/or settlement patterns. Together these results show clear evidence of nearby human activity and its effects on the local environment.
David B. Wahl
Thursday, 3/26, 3:50 PM - Skybox 212, Riviera Hotel, 2nd Floor
Paper Session: 5540 Soils, Sediments, and Geoarchaeology I

Geographic Information Ethics

Ethical engagements with the multitude of GIS applications and uses, whether surreptitious or overt, have marked recent developments in the field. The U.S. Department of Labor has highlighted "geographic technology" as a key high-growth job field for the 21st century. While the potential benefits and risks of geographic technologies are becoming well known, ethical issues are less widely discussed. For instance:
- Geographic technologies are surveillance technologies. The data they produce may be used to invade the privacy, and even the autonomy, of individuals and groups.
- Data gathered using geographic technologies are used to make policy decisions. Erroneous, inadequately documented, or inappropriate data can have grave consequences for individuals and the environment.
- Geographic technologies have the potential to exacerbate inequities in society, insofar as large organizations enjoy greater access to technology, data, and technological expertise than smaller organizations and individuals.
Barbara Poore (panelist)
Tuesday, 3/24/09, from 10:10 AM - 11:50 AM in Skybox 208, Riviera Hotel, 2nd Floor
Panel Session: 3236 Geographic Information Ethics and GIScience II

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