Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Remote Sensing Shrub/Grass National Land Cover Database (NLCD) Back-in-Time (BIT) Products for the Western U.S., 1985 - 2018

June 18, 2020

The need to monitor change in sagebrush steppe is urgent due to the increasing impacts of climate change, shifting fire regimes, and management practices on ecosystem health. Remote sensing provides a cost-effective and reliable method for monitoring change through time and attributing changes to drivers. We report an automated method of mapping rangeland fractional component cover over a large portion of the Northern Great Basin, USA, from 1986 to 2016 using a dense Landsat imagery time series. 2012 was excluded from the time-series due to a lack of quality imagery. Our method improved upon the traditional change vector method by considering the legacy of change at each pixel. We evaluate cover trends stratified by climate bin and assess spatial and temporal relationships with climate variables. Finally, we statistically evaluate the minimum time density needed to accurately characterize temporal patterns and relationships with climate drivers. Over the 30-yr period, shrub cover declined and bare ground increased. While few pixels had greater than 10% cover change, a large majority had at least some change. All fractional components had significant spatial relationships with water year precipitation (WYPRCP), maximum temperature (WYTMAX), and minimum temperature (WYTMIN) in all years. Shrub and sagebrush cover in particular respond positively to warming WYTMIN, resulting from the largest increases in WYTMIN being in the coolest and wettest areas, and respond negatively to warming WYTMAX because the largest increases in WYTMAX are in the warmest and driest areas. These data can be used to answer critical questions regarding the influence of climate change and the suitability of management practices. Component products can be downloaded from www.mrlc.gov.

Related Content