Land Change Science Program
Paleoclimate science - its principles and importance to society
Biological proxies such as diatoms, foraminifers, ostracodes, and pollen allow scientists to make inferences about climate conditions in the past.Learn More
Programs L2 Landing Page
Changes in the environment, land use, and climate can have significant impacts on our Nation’s economy, natural resources, infrastructure, and water, food, and energy security. To strengthen our Nation’s ability to respond and adapt to these stressors, the USGS Land Change Science Program conducts research to improve understanding of rates, causes, and consequences of climate and land use change.
Land Change Science studies the spatial patterns, processes and consequences of changes in climate, land use and land cover and contributes the fundamental science basis needed to develop sustainable resource management strategies.
Drylands are highly vulnerable to climate and land use changes: what ecosystem changes are in store?
Improper land use during drought has been a major driver of land degradation in drylands globally, especially in the western U.S. Increasing aridity in western U.S. drylands under future climates will exacerbate risks associated with drought and land use decisions. This project provides critical observational, experimental, and modelling evidence to support our DOI partners with decision...
Interactions between forested and urban landscapes can lead to reciprocal effects that have substantial impacts on water supply and ecology. Air pollution from urban and forested landscapes can be deposited on adjacent forests, while forest disturbance, such as wildfires and floods, can remobilize those contaminants. Additionally, pollutants from legacy land use (e.g., mining) can also be...
The Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of North America is one of the most important breeding areas for continental waterfowl populations, a Department of Interior (DOI) trust resource. Land use and climate both influence the functioning of the region’s wetland ecosystems, with effects not just on the waterfowl that depend on these wetlands, but also on the services they provide to society, such as...
More than a third of the United States population lives in counties directly on the shoreline, making them vulnerable to hazards associated with changing sea level and storm surges associated with hurricanes and severe storms. The geologic record contains many examples of past intervals of warm climate and high sea level. "Geological Investigation of the Neogene" is examining proxy records of...
The Arctic is undergoing historically unprecedented changes in weather, sea ice, temperature and ecosystems. These changes have led to greater coastal erosion, greater export of freshwater, and changes to marine and terrestrial ecosystems, habitats, and productivity, among other trends. Meanwhile, many believe the Arctic “amplifies” large climate changes during both warm periods and ice ages...
This webpage showcases the key research advances made in hyperspectral remote sensing of agricultural crops and vegetation over the last 50 years. There are three focus areas:
USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS), in conjunction with the US Forest Service Pacific Southwest (PSW) Region, has developed several new products for understanding and forecasting the probability of large wildland fires on all land in the conterminous U.S.
Ecosystem services are the benefits that nature provides to human well-being: clean air and water, protection from natural disasters, fisheries, crop pollination and control of pests and disease, and outdoor places for recreation, solitude, and renewal. Ecosystem services underlie the functioning of our entire economy. They are neither worthless nor priceless, and by integrating the physical...
Energy is a cornerstone issue for humanity, nations, and individuals. How we create and use energy impacts the consequences it embodies. The critical issue facing humanity involves meeting our massive and growing energy needs, without undermining human and natural capital. Facing the challenge of long-term, sustainable energy for the nation and world requires understanding the consequences of...
Climate changes can significantly affect species and ecosystems. Historical and paleoenvironmental data record species and ecosystem responses to past climate changes, but these records become sparse as one goes further back in time. Model simulations can be used fill the spatial and temporal gaps in observed records to improve our understanding of the potential magnitude, rate, and spatial...
This project studies past high sea levels on coastlines that preserve fossil coral reefs or marine terraces. We ascertain the magnitudes of sea-level high stands by field mapping, stratigraphic measurements, and precise elevation measurements. Geochronology is accomplished by radiocarbon dating of mollusks (for Holocene-to-last-glacial deposits), uranium-series dating of corals (for high-sea...
The Earth contains an astonishing variety of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems, which provide biological resources and services that are essential to our survival. A high resolution, data-derived, global ecosystems map will improve our ability to manage, conserve, and restore ecosystems that are increasingly threatened by fragmentation, alteration, loss, invasive species, fire,...
The climate history, land cover and land surface data developed by the Land Change Science program is vital to various types of research and management applications, including assessing the impacts of climate change, evaluating ecosystem status and health, understanding spatial patterns of biodiversity, and informing land use planning.
Explore paleoceanographic data.
USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, in conjunction with the US Forest Service Pacific Southwest (PSW) Region, has developed several new products for understanding and forecasting the probability of large wildland fires on all land in the conterminous U.S.
PHyLiSS is a generalized coupled hydrologic and hydrogeochemical model of prairie-pothole wetland ecosystems. The current version of PHyLiSS has the capability to simulate wetland hydrology and salinity. Future iterations will be able to simulate the impacts of changing hydrology and salinity on biota.
Missouri Coteau Wetland Ecosystem Observatory: Understanding effects of land-use and climate change on wetland ecosystems of the Prairie Pothole Region
The Missouri Coteau Wetland Ecosystem Observatory is dedicated to increasing knowledge of prairie wetland ecosystems and how they function in the face of climate and land-use change. Research currently includes studies of groundwater hydrology, geochemistry, greenhouse-gas emissions, aquatic biota, climate change, and pesticide transformations.
A multidisciplinary framework to derive global river reach classifications at high spatial resolution
Projected climate and environmental change are expected to increase the pressure on global freshwater resources. To prepare for and cope with the related risks, stakeholders need to devise plans for sustainable management of river systems, which in turn requires the identification of management-appropriate operational units, such as groups of...Ouellet Dallaire, Camille; Lehner, Bernhard; Sayre, Roger; Thieme, Michele
A new 30 meter resolution global shoreline vector and associated global islands database for the development of standardized ecological coastal units
A new 30-m spatial resolution global shoreline vector (GSV) was developed from annual composites of 2014 Landsat satellite imagery. The semi-automated classification of the imagery was accomplished by manual selection of training points representing water and non-water classes along the entire global coastline. Polygon topology was applied to the...Sayre, Roger; Noble, Suzanne; Hamann, Sharon L.; Smith, Rebecca; Wright, Dawn J.; Breyer, Sean P.; Butler, Kevin; Van Graafeiland, Keith; Frye, Charlie; Karagulle, Deniz; Hopkins, Dabney; Stephens, Drew; Kelly, Kevin; Basher, Zeenatul; Burton, Devon; Cress, Jill Janene; Atkins, Karina; Van Sistine, D. Paco; Friesen, Beverly; Allee, Rebecca; Allen, Tom; Aniello, Peter; Asaad, Irawan; Costello, Mark John; Goodin, Kathy; Harrison, Peter; Kavanaugh, Maria T.; Lillis, Helen; Manca, Eleonora; Muller-Karger, Frank E.; Nyberg, Bjorn; Parsons, Rost; Saarinen, Justin; Steiner, Jac; Reed, Adam
A new high-resolution map of world mountains and an online tool for visualizing and comparing characterizations of global mountain distributions
Answers to the seemingly straightforward questions “what is a mountain?” and “where are the mountains of the world?” are in fact quite complex, and there have been few attempts to map the mountains of the earth in a consistent and rigorous fashion. However, knowing exactly where mountain ecosystems are distributed on the planet is a precursor to...Sayre, Roger; Frye, Charlie; Karagulle, Deniz; Krauer, Jürg; Breyer, Sean; Aniello, Peter; Wright, Dawn J.; Payne, Davnah; Adler, Carolina; Warner, Harumi; Van Sistine, D. Paco; Cress, Jill Janene
Monitoring mountains in a changing world: New horizons for the Global Network for Observations and Information on Mountain Environments (GEO-GNOME)
Mountains are globally distributed environments that provide significant societal benefits, a function that is increasingly compromised by climatic change, environmental stress, political and socioeconomic transformations, and unsustainable use of natural resources. Gaps in our understanding of these processes and their interactions limit our...Adler, Carolina; Palazzi, Elisa; Kulonen, Aino; Balsiger, Jörg; Colangeli, Guido; Cripe, Douglas; Forsythe, Nathan; Goss-Durant, Grace; Guigoz, Yaniss; Krauer, Jürg; Payne, Davnah; Pepin, Nicholas; Peralvo, Manuel; Romero, José; Sayre, Roger; Shahgedanova, Maria; Weingartner, Rolf; Zebisch, Marc
Stratifying ocean sampling globally and with depth to account for environmental variability
With increasing depth, the ocean is less sampled for physical, chemical and biological variables. Using the Global Marine Environmental Datasets (GMED) and Ecological Marine Units (EMUs), we show that spatial variation in environmental variables decreases with depth. This is also the case over temporal scales because seasonal change...Costello, Mark John; Basher, Zeenatul; Sayre, Roger; Breyer, Sean P.; Wright, Dawn J.
Modeling wildfire-induced permafrost deformation in an Alaskan boreal forest using InSAR observations
The discontinuous permafrost zone is one of the world’s most sensitive areas to climate change. Alaskan boreal forest is underlain by discontinuous permafrost, and wildfires are one of the most influential agents negatively impacting the condition of permafrost in the arctic region. Using interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) of...Molan, Yusef Eshqi; Kim, Jin-Woo; Lu, Zhong; Wylie, Bruce K.; Zhu, Zhiliang
Baseline and projected future carbon storage and carbon fluxes in ecosystems of Hawai‘i
This assessment was conducted to fulfill the requirements of section 712 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and to improve understanding of factors influencing carbon balance in ecosystems of Hawai‘i. Ecosystem carbon storage, carbon fluxes, and carbon balance were examined for major terrestrial ecosystems on the seven main...Selmants, Paul C.; Giardina, Christian P.; Jacobi, James D.; Zhu, Zhiliang
Baseline and projected future carbon storage and greenhouse-gas fluxes in ecosystems of Alaska
This assessment was conducted to fulfill the requirements of section 712 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and to contribute to knowledge of the storage, fluxes, and balance of carbon and methane gas in ecosystems of Alaska. The carbon and methane variables were examined for major terrestrial ecosystems (uplands and wetlands) and...Zhu, Zhiliang; McGuire, A. David
Baseline and projected future carbon storage and greenhouse-gas fluxes in ecosystems of the eastern United States
This assessment was conducted to fulfill the requirements of section 712 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and to conduct a comprehensive national assessment of storage and flux (flow) of carbon and the fluxes of other greenhouse gases in ecosystems of the Eastern United States. These carbon and greenhouse gas variables were...Zhu, Zhi-Liang; Reed, Bradley C.; Zhu, Zhi-Liang; Reed, Bradley C.
A new map of global ecological land units—An ecophysiographic stratification approach
In response to the need and an intergovernmental commission for a high resolution and data-derived global ecosystem map, land surface elements of global ecological pattern were characterized in an ecophysiographic stratification of the planet. The stratification produced 3,923 terrestrial ecological land units (ELUs) at a base resolution of 250...Sayre, Roger; Dangermond, Jack; Frye, Charlie; Vaughan, Randy; Aniello, Peter; Breyer, Sean P.; Cribbs, Douglas; Hopkins, Dabney; Nauman, Richard; Derrenbacher, William; Wright, Dawn J.; Brown, Clint; Convis, Charles; Smith, Jonathan H.; Benson, Laurence; VanSistine, D. Paco; Warner, Harumi; Cress, Jill Janene; Danielson, Jeffrey J.; Hamann, Sharon L.; Cecere, Thomas; Reddy, Ashwan D.; Burton, Devon; Grosse, Andrea; True, Diane; Metzger, Marc; Hartmann, Jens; Moosdorf, Nils; Durr, Hans; Paganini, Marc; Defourny, Pierre; Arino, Olivier; Maynard, Simone; Anderson, Mark; Comer, Patrick
United States Geological Survey fire science: fire danger monitoring and forecasting
Each day, the U.S. Geological Survey produces 7-day forecasts for all Federal lands of the distributions of number of ignitions, number of fires above a given size, and conditional probabilities of fires growing larger than a specified size. The large fire probability map is an estimate of the likelihood that ignitions will become large fires. The...Eidenshink, Jeff C.; Howard, Stephen M.
Forecasting distributions of large federal-lands fires utilizing satellite and gridded weather information
The current study presents a statistical model for assessing the skill of fire danger indices and for forecasting the distribution of the expected numbers of large fires over a given region and for the upcoming week. The procedure permits development of daily maps that forecast, for the forthcoming week and within federal lands, percentiles of the...Preisler, H.K.; Burgan, R.E.; Eidenshink, J.C.; Klaver, Jacqueline M.; Klaver, R.W.
Map of Alaska showing probability (%) of change occurrence. Insets show fire boundaries from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Large Fire Database and Landsat 8 imagery (bottom right; 2016) north of Fairbanks, Alaska.
The FPI is most similar to the Energy Release Component of the National Fire Danger Rating System in that both are moisture related indexes and neither indicates the effect of wind on fire potential.
Summary of Fires by GACC Units: For the week of 08/29/2018
This video contains a narrated introduction to the Global Mountain Explorer, or GME. The GME is a web-based tool for visualizing and exploring three well known global mountain datalayers. The video tutorial provides background information on the three global mountain characterizations, and provides users with a walk through of all the functionality of the map exploration...
USGS scientist Burke Minsley and project partners from the U. Alaska Fairbanks lay ground cable to measure permafrost depth at Nome Creek site north of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Remnants of a spruce forest complex following a severe wildfire in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Wildfires are the dominant landscape-scale disturbance operating at annual time scales in Alaska, and fires play a major role in the rate and extent of vegetation growth and productivity of a site. Wildland fires typically result in the reduction of...
A revised set of phenology metrics have been released for 2003 – 2017. This suite of phenology metrics was
derived from time-series Collection 6 Aqua eMODIS Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data.
Download C6 Aqua Eastern U.S. 250 m eMODIS Phenology Metrics
The purpose of this study is to make a quantitative comparison of Fire Potential Index (fpi) rasters created by identical processes and on coincident dates, differing only in the sensor from which the source data were obtained.
The Big Thompson Floods of 1976 and 2013 shown visually. The inundation images reflect the location and peak streamflows at certain points between Estes Park and Loveland, Colorado.
The U.S. Geological Survey is celebrating the achievements of Dr. Craig D. Allen, who was recently named an Ecological Society of America (ESA) fellow for making exceptional contributions to a broad array of ecology. Dr. Allen, a research ecologist with the USGS Fort Collins Science Center, joins 27 other newly-initiated ESA fellows from academia, public and private sectors. Fellows are elected for life.
A new tool that gives users the most detailed view yet of the world’s mountains is now available from the USGS. And it’s as close as your computer or cellphone.
The world’s oceans are vital to life on Earth. They provide food, moderate the climate, water the land, and drive the local and global economy. But the living conditions and resources in the enormous water masses of the open ocean have been mostly unknown and unmapped.
While freshwater ecosystems cover only a small amount of the land surface in Alaska, they transport and emit a significant amount of carbon, according to new U.S. Geological Survey research. An invited feature article for Ecological Applications provides the first-ever major aquatic carbon flux assessment for the entire state. Carbon flux refers to the rate of carbon transfer between pools.
Hours before Japan was struck by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and the ensuing catastrophic tsunami, John Schelling spoke at a public meeting in the coastal community of Oceans Shores, Washington, about preparing for tsunami hazards. The few dozen people attending the meeting went home that evening and watched in horror as the events in Japan unfolded.
Monitoring drought vital to success of humanitarian relief
USGS Scientists Receive Presidential Awards for Research on Earthquakes, Fish Disease, and Paleoclimate
The U.S. Geological Survey is celebrating the success of three distinguished researchers who are recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). This award is the highest recognition granted by the United States government to scientists and engineers in the early stages of their research careers.