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Land change monitoring, assessment, and projection (LCMAP) revolutionizes land cover and land change research

May 2, 2017

When nature and humanity change Earth’s landscapes - through flood or fire, public policy, natural resources management, or economic development - the results are often dramatic and lasting.

Wildfires can reshape ecosystems. Hurricanes with names like Sandy or Katrina will howl for days while altering the landscape for years. One growing season in the evolution of drought-resistant genetics can transform semiarid landscapes into farm fields.

In the past, valuable land cover maps created for understanding the effects of those events - whether changes in wildlife habitat, water-quality impacts, or the role land use and land cover play in affecting weather and climate - came out at best every 5 to 7 years. Those high quality, high resolution maps were good, but users always craved more: even higher quality data, additional land cover and land change variables, more detailed legends, and most importantly, more frequent land change information.

Now a bold new initiative called Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) promises to fulfill that demand.

Developed at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, LCMAP provides definitive, timely information on how, why, and where the planet is changing. LCMAP’s continuous monitoring process can detect changes as they happen every day that Landsat satellites acquire clear observations. The result will be to place near real-time information in the hands of land and resource managers who need to understand the effects these changes have on landscapes.

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