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Application of empirical land-cover changes to construct climate change scenarios in federally managed lands

July 23, 2020

Sagebrush-dominant ecosystems in the western United States are highly vulnerable to climatic variability. To understand how these ecosystems will respond under potential future conditions, we correlated changes in National Land Cover Dataset “Back-in-Time” fractional cover maps from 1985-2018 with Daymet climate data in three federally managed preserves in the sagebrush steppe ecosystem: Beaty Butte Herd Management Area, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, and Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Future (2018 to 2050) abundance and distribution of vegetation cover were modeled at a 300-m resolution under a business-as-usual climate (BAU) scenario and a Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 climate change scenario. Spatially explicit map projections suggest that climate influences may make the landscape more homogeneous in the near future. Specifically, projections indicate that pixels with high bare ground cover become less bare ground dominant, pixels with moderate herbaceous cover contain less herbaceous cover, and pixels with low shrub cover contain more shrub cover. General vegetation patterns and composition do not differ dramatically between scenarios despite RCP 8.5 projections of + 1.2 °C mean annual minimum temperatures and +7.6 mm total annual precipitation. Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is forecast to undergo the most change, with both models projecting larger declines in bare ground and larger increases in average herbaceous and shrub cover compared to Beaty Butte Herd Management Area and Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. These scenarios present plausible future outcomes intended to guide federal land managers to identify vegetation cover changes that may affect habitat condition and availability for species of interest.

Publication Year 2020
Title Application of empirical land-cover changes to construct climate change scenarios in federally managed lands
DOI 10.3390/rs12152360
Authors Christopher E. Soulard, Matthew B. Rigge
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Remote Sensing
Index ID 70211324
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center; Western Geographic Science Center