Land Change Science Program

Hydrologic Change

The amount of freshwater on the Earth’s surface and in the ground is determined by geology, land use, climate, habitat type, and human management of water resources. The Land Change Science Program conducts multidisciplinary research to establish a sound scientific basis to understand and anticipate the impacts of future change on the Nation's water infrastructure and ecosystems.

Filter Total Items: 23
Date published: October 23, 2019
Status: Active

Drivers and Impacts of North Pacific Climate Variability

Climate model forecasts indicate an increase in extreme hydrologic events, including floods and droughts, for California and the western U.S. in the future. To better understand what the consequences of this future change in climate may be, USGS scientists are studying the frequency, magnitude, and impacts of past hydroclimate variability and extremes in the region. This project produces well-...

Date published: May 31, 2019
Status: Active

Remote Sensing of Ecosystem Condition and Resilience

Ecosystem condition tends to be highly dynamic in response to natural variability in climate, extreme climate events, disturbance events, and human land use activities. Satellite imagery provides a powerful tool to enhance our understanding of ecosystem change at a landscape scale. This research integrates diverse sources of satellite imagery with ancillary datasets to explore how ecosystems...

Date published: April 24, 2019
Status: Active

Accelerating changes and transformations in western mountain lakes

While research into eutrophication has been a cornerstone of limnology for more than 100 years, only recently has it become a topic for the remote alpine lakes that are icons of protected national parks and wilderness areas. National park lakes in the western U.S. are threatened by global change, specifically air pollution, warming, and their interactions, and the problem is quickly worsening...

Date published: April 22, 2019
Status: Active

Actual evapotranspiration, flash droughts, water deficits, reduced vegetative growth, and wildfires: the effects of seasonally water-limited conditions in a changing climate

The Southeastern U.S. experiences recurring hydrologic droughts, which can reduce water availability for human consumption and ecosystem services, leading to plant stress and reduced plant growth. This project examines relationships between drought and the water cycle in the Southeast with data from the Panola Mountain Research Watershed (PMRW) near Atlanta, Georgia and other Southeastern...

Date published: April 17, 2019
Status: Active

Water Quality Across Regional Stream Networks: The Influence of Land Cover and Land Use, Climate, and Biogeochemical Processing on Spatiotemporal Variance

Land cover and land use (LC/LU), climate, and biogeochemical processing are significant drivers of water quality in streams and rivers over broad scales of space and time. As LC/LU and climate continue to change we can expect changes in water quality. This project seeks to understand the drivers of spatial and temporal variability in water quality across scales using new and existing data to...

Date published: April 15, 2019
Status: Active

Effects of disturbance and drought on the forests and hydrology of the Southern Rocky Mountains

Climate-related forest disturbances, particularly drought-induced tree mortality and large, high-severity fires from increasingly warm and dry conditions, are altering forest ecosystems and the ecosystem services society depends on (e.g., water supplies).  Our research combines long-term place-based ecological data, diverse methods (e.g., paleo, remote-sensing), and networking approaches to...

Date published: April 13, 2019
Status: Active

Linking water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles in seasonally snow-covered catchments under changing land resource conditions

Changes in snowpack accumulation, distribution, and melt in high-elevation catchments are likely to have important impacts on water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles, which are tightly coupled through exchanges of energy and biogeochemical compounds between atmospheric, terrestrial, and aquatic environments.  Our research helps to better understand how changes in climate will affect water...

Date published: April 13, 2019
Status: Active

Biogeochemistry of glaciers

Significant change to the Arctic and sub-arctic water cycle is underway, impacting hydrologic and biogeochemical fluxes.  In southcentral Alaska, glacier mass loss, changes to precipitation (including the rain/snow fraction), thawing ground ice, and vegetation encroachment will change both magnitude and timing of water and solute fluxes downstream.  Although altered fluxes of limiting...

Date published: April 13, 2019
Status: Active

Forest health and drought response

Forests provide society with economically important and often irreplaceable goods and services, such as wood products, carbon sequestration, clean water, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities.  Yet hotter droughts (droughts in which unusually high temperatures exacerbate the effects of low precipitation) are projected to increase in frequency and intensity in coming decades, potentially...

Date published: March 28, 2019
Status: Active

Sea Level and Storm Hazards: Past and Present

Sea level and Storm Hazards: Past and Present is a multidisciplinary study of past changes in sea level. Prehistoric shorelines can be used as a baseline for current and future sea level changes under warmer-than-present climate. Emphasis is placed on looking at sea levels during warm periods of the last 500,000 years as well as how base level changes increase the risk of coastal inundation...

Date published: March 25, 2019
Status: Active

Reconstructing Ocean Circulation & Hydroclimate in the Subtropical Atlantic

Changes in rainfall patterns as a result of anthropogenic climate change are already having large ecological and socioeconomic impacts across the globe. Increases in flood damage, wildfire damage, and agricultural losses can all be attributed to anomalous rainfall events and prolonged droughts across the United States in recent years. Additionally, Atlantic Ocean circulation, which has a large...

Date published: December 13, 2018
Status: Active

Connections between Forested and Urban Landscapes and Implications for Water Supply

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...