Mission Areas

Climate and Land Use Change

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Understanding a changing world and how it affects our natural resources, livelihoods, and communities. Science plays an essential role in helping communities and resource managers understand the local to global implications of change, anticipate the effects of change, prepare for change, and reduce the risks associated with decisionmaking in a changing environment.

Carbon Sequestration

Carbon Sequestration

Scientists are working to assess both the potential capacities and the potential limitations of the various forms of carbon sequestration and to evaluate their geologic, hydrologic, and ecological consequences.

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Image of the week

Image of the week

This Image Gallery allows users to see how the surface of the Earth is changing rapidly, at local, regional, national, even global scales, with significant repercussions for people, the economy, and the environment.

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Data and Tools

Climate and Land Use Change supports the science community with its long-term observational networks and extensive databases encompassing the fields of climate history, land-use and land-cover change, and carbon and nutrient cycles.

U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

EarthExplorer

Global Ecosystems

LandCarbon

National Climate Change Viewer

National Land Cover Database

LandsatLook Viewer

News

Image shows a satellite view of Colombia
December 4, 2016

This EarthView from Landsat shows deforestation in Colombia between 1989 and 2016.

Image shows a satellite view of Saudi Arabia
December 3, 2016

This EarthView shows how fossil water is used for agriculture in Saudi Arabia.

Painting - the construction of James Fort, by Sidney E. King
November 28, 2016

The Interior Department’s Climate Science Centers, managed by USGS, are helping the NPS pinpoint the specific impacts of climate change on parks and their cultural and natural resources. Doing so will help managers answer a critical question: which resources will require human intervention to ensure their continued existence?

Climate and Land Use science is essential to improve understanding of past and present change; develop relevant forecasts; and identify those lands, resources, and communities most vulnerable to Earth system change processes.

Our Science Strategy
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Aerial image, Chincoteague NWR boundary
August 2, 2016

Tropical storms and hurricanes wreak havoc with coastal forests where damage can vary with wind speed and approach from isolated treefalls to wide-area blowdowns of whole forests.

Port of the Islands (POI) basin
August 1, 2016

Critical information predicting condition changes in manatee habitat resulting from the alteration of freshwater flows to estuaries is needed to develop the PSRP Detailed Design and PSRP Operations Plan components and complete consultation under the Endangered Species Act.

Ferns outside of Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcano National Park
July 26, 2016

The National Park System covers more than 84 million acres and is comprised of 401 sites across the nation, and serves as recreational destinations for visitors from across the nation and around the globe. On vacations or on day trips, park visitors spend money in the gateway communities surrounding park sites, which then generates and supports a considerable amount of economic activity within...

Sandhill Crane
July 25, 2016

Playas in the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GPLCC) are at risk for both increased sedimentation and reduced inundation due to predicted increased summer temperatures, decreased annual precipitation, and agricultural intensification. Among other benefits, playas provide essential habitat for many wetland-dependent species and are especially important as critical refueling...

Figure 1. Example from previous investigations of wetland area change and shoreline erosion.
July 20, 2016

Significant damage to coastal communities and surrounding wetlands of the north Atlantic states was caused by Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012, mostly tied to an associated storm surge of record extent and impact.

Florida Manatee with a tracking devise attached
June 16, 2016

Long-term monitoring data in the Manatee Individual Photo-identification System (MIPS), developed and coordinated by WARC-Sirenia Project in collaboration with Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory, are the basis for modeling manatee demography rates....

USGS representatives have been working closely with the Tribes since Hurricane Sandy.
June 2, 2016

USGS is committed to meeting the science needs of four Native American Tribes impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New England and New York: the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head - Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard, MA; the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod, MA; the Narragansett Indian Tribe near Charlestown, RI; and the Shinnecock Indian Nation on Long Island....

Figure 2. Approximate boundaries of Chitimacha indigenous lands. Image courtesy Native American Law
June 2, 2016

This project will create a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana (Chitimacha), serving as an implementable plan for coastal community adaptation to climate change that can be used as a model in other small communities.

Wading birds and shorebirds in TTINWR
May 11, 2016

The interior marshes of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge (TTINWR) are currently negatively impacted by sea level rise through saltwater intrusion from the south which furthers mangrove encroachment into the freshwater marsh.

Satellite image of study areas
May 11, 2016

As Greater Everglades restoration project implementation progresses, wetlands in near coastal areas may undergo changes in salinity, hydroperiod, and water depth.

Study sites were established near Port Fourchon, Louisiana
May 11, 2016

Field observations over recent decades have confirmed mangrove expansion landward in tropical zones and poleward in temperate saltmarsh settings around the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Real-time kinematic GPS surveys combined with complimentary ground leveling
May 11, 2016

Storm surge waves and tides of hurricanes have the propensity to wash up marsh detritus of dead reeds and leaf debris along with plastic trash and lumber, commonly referred to as wrack, from overwashed beaches, marshes, forests, streets, and lawns.

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Disentangling the mechanisms regulating coastal wetland sustainability in the face of rising sea levels
May 16, 2016

Quantitative Analysis Using Structural Equation Modeling

USGS scientists have been involved for a number of years in the development and use of Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). This methodology represents an approach to statistical modeling that focuses on the study of complex cause-effect hypotheses about the mechanisms operating in systems.

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Assessing climate-sensitive ecosystems in the southeastern United States
Year Published: 2016

Assessing climate-sensitive ecosystems in the southeastern United States

Climate change impacts ecosystems in many ways, from effects on species to phenology to wildfire dynamics. Assessing the potential vulnerability of ecosystems to future changes in climate is an important first step in prioritizing and planning for conservation. Although assessments of climate change vulnerability commonly are done for species,...

Costanza, Jennifer; Beck, Scott; Pyne, Milo; Terando, Adam; Rubino, Matthew; White, Rickie; Collazo, Jaime
Costanza, Jennifer, Beck, Scott, Pyne, Milo, Terando, Adam, Rubino, Matthew, White, Rickie, and Collazo, Jaime, 2016, Assessing climate-sensitive ecosystems in the southeastern United States: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1073, 278 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161073.
Ecosystem vulnerability to climate change in the southeastern United States
Year Published: 2016

Ecosystem vulnerability to climate change in the southeastern United States

Two recent investigations of climate-change vulnerability for 19 terrestrial, aquatic, riparian, and coastal ecosystems of the southeastern United States have identified a number of important considerations, including potential for changes in hydrology, disturbance regimes, and interspecies interactions.

Cartwright, Jennifer M.; Costanza, Jennifer
Cartwright, J.M., and Costanza, Jennifer, 2016, Ecosystem vulnerability to climate change in the southeastern United States: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2016–3052, 4 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/fs20163052.
Insular ecosystems of the southeastern United States—A regional synthesis to support biodiversity conservation in a changing climate
Year Published: 2016

Insular ecosystems of the southeastern United States—A regional synthesis to support biodiversity conservation in a changing climate

In the southeastern United States, insular ecosystems—such as rock outcrops, depression wetlands, high-elevation balds, flood-scoured riparian corridors, and insular prairies and barrens—occupy a small fraction of land area but constitute an important source of regional and global biodiversity, including concentrations of rare and endemic plant...

Cartwright, Jennifer M.; Wolfe, William J.
Cartwright, J.M., and Wolfe, W.J., 2016, Insular ecosystems of the southeastern United States—A regional synthesis to support biodiversity conservation in a changing climate: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1828, 162 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/pp1828.
Identifying bird and reptile vulnerabilities to climate change in the southwestern United States
Year Published: 2016

Identifying bird and reptile vulnerabilities to climate change in the southwestern United States

Current and future breeding ranges of 15 bird and 16 reptile species were modeled in the Southwestern United States. Rather than taking a broad-scale, vulnerability-assessment approach, we created a species distribution model (SDM) for each focal species incorporating climatic, landscape, and plant variables. Baseline climate (1940–2009) was...

Hatten, James R.; Giermakowski, J. Tomasz; Holmes, Jennifer A.; Nowak, Erika M.; Johnson, Matthew J.; Ironside, Kirsten E.; Van Riper, Charles; Peters, Michael; Truettner, Charles; Cole, Kenneth L.
Hatten, J.R., Giermakowski, J.T., Holmes, J.A., Nowak, E.M., Johnson, M.J., Ironside, K.E., van Riper, Charles, III, Peters, Michael, Truettner, Charles, and Cole, K.L., 2016, Identifying bird and reptile vulnerabilities to climate change in the Southwestern United States: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016-1085, 76 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161085.
Increased water deficit decreases Douglas fir growth throughout western US forests
Year Published: 2016

Increased water deficit decreases Douglas fir growth throughout western US forests

Changes in tree growth rates can affect tree mortality and forest feedbacks to the global carbon cycle. As air temperature increases, evaporative demand also increases, increasing effective drought in forest ecosystems. Using a spatially comprehensive network of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) chronologies from 122 locations that experience...

Restaino, Christina M; Peterson, David L.; Littell, Jeremy
Restaino, C.M., D.L. Peterson, and J.S. Littell. 2016. Increased water deficit decreases Douglas fir growth throughout western US forests Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PNAS 2016 ; published ahead of print August 8, 2016, doi:10.1073/pnas.1602384113
Wildfire risk as a socioecological pathology
Year Published: 2016

Wildfire risk as a socioecological pathology

Wildfire risk in temperate forests has become a nearly intractable problem that can be characterized as a socioecological “pathology”: that is, a set of complex and problematic interactions among social and ecological systems across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Assessments of wildfire risk could benefit from recognizing and accounting for...

Fischer, A. Paige; Spies, Thomas A; Steelman, Toddi A; Moseley, Cassandra; Johnson, Bart R; Bailey, John D.; Ager, Alan A; Bourgeron, Patrick S.; Charnley, Susan; Collins, Brandon M.; Kline, Jeffrey D; Leahy, Jessica E; Littell, Jeremy; Millington, James D A; Nielsen-Pincus, Max; Olsen, Christine S; Paveglio, Travis B; Roos, Christopher I.; Steen-Adams, Michelle M; Stevens, Forrest R; Vukomanovic, Jelena; White, Eric M; Bowman, David M J S
Conversion to drip irrigated agriculture may offset historic anthropogenic and wildfire contributions to sediment production
Year Published: 2016

Conversion to drip irrigated agriculture may offset historic anthropogenic and wildfire contributions to sediment production

This study is an investigation into the roles of wildfire and changing agricultural practices in controlling the inter-decadal scale trends of suspended sediment production from semi-arid mountainous rivers. In the test case, a decreasing trend in suspended sediment concentrations was found in the lower Salinas River, California between 1967 and...

A.B. Gray, G.B. Pasternack, E.B. Watson, M.A. Goñi, J.A. Hatten, J.A. Warrick
Gray, A.B., Pasternack, G.B., Watson, E.B., Goñi, M.A., Hatten, J.A., and Warrick, J.A., 2016, Conversion to drip irrigated agriculture may offset historic anthropogenic and wildfire contributions to sediment production: Science of The Total Environment, v. 556, pp. 219–230, doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.018.
Baseline and projected future carbon storage and greenhouse-gas fluxes in ecosystems of Alaska
Year Published: 2016

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, and McGuire, A.D., eds., 2016, Baseline and projected future carbon storage and greenhouse-gas fluxes in ecosystems of Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1826, 196 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/pp1826.
A review of the relationships between drought and forest fire in the United States
Year Published: 2016

A review of the relationships between drought and forest fire in the United States

The historical and pre-settlement relationships between drought and wildfire are well documented in North America, with forest fire occurrence and area clearly increasing in response to drought. There is also evidence that drought interacts with other controls (forest productivity, topography, fire weather, management activities) to affect fire...

Littell, Jeremy; Peterson, David L.; Riley, Karin L.; Yongquiang LiuLuce, Charles H.
Isotopes in North American Rocky Mountain Snowpack 1993–2014
Year Published: 2016

Isotopes in North American Rocky Mountain Snowpack 1993–2014

We present ∼1300 new isotopic measurements (δ 18 O and δ 2 H) from a network of snowpack sites in the Rocky Mountains that have been sampled since 1993. The network includes 177 locations where depth-integrated snow samples are collected each spring near peak accumulation. At 57 of these locations snowpack samples were obtained for 10–21 years and...

Anderson, L., Berkelhammer, M.,and Mast, M.A.
Anderson, L., Berkelhammer, M.,and Mast, M.A., 2016, Isotopes in North American Rocky Mountain Snowpack 1993–2014: Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 131, p. 262-273.
Salt marsh-mangrove ecotones: using structural gradients to investigate the effects of woody plant encroachment on plant–soil interactions and ecosystem carbon pools
Year Published: 2016

Salt marsh-mangrove ecotones: using structural gradients to investigate the effects of woody plant encroachment on plant–soil interactions and ecosystem carbon pools

Changing winter climate extremes are expected to result in the poleward migration of mangrove forests at the expense of salt marshes. Although mangroves and marshes are both highly valued ecosystems, the ecological implications of mangrove expansion have not been fully investigated...

Landsat International Cooperators and Global Archive Consolidation
Year Published: 2016

Landsat International Cooperators and Global Archive Consolidation

Landsat missions have always been an important component of U.S. foreign policy, as well as science and technology policy. The program’s longstanding network of International Cooperators (ICs), which operate numerous International Ground Stations (IGS) around the world, embodies the United States’ policy of peaceful use of outer space and the...

U.S. Geological Survey, 2016, Landsat International Cooperators and Global Archive Consolidation: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2016–3018, 2 p., http://doi.dx.org/10.3133/fs20163018.
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Alaska Interior mountain range shot with snow capped mountains.
2016 (approx.)
Alaska Interior mountain range shot with snow capped mountains.
Recording information during a point count
2016 (approx.)
Sarah Frey, a Northwest Climate Science Center graduate fellow at Oregon State University, records information during a point count at the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon.
2016 (approx.)
This video will provide a brief history and purpose for one of the oldest streamgages in Indiana. The gage is at the Wabash River at Lafayette, Indiana. The site number is 03335500. This video was produced at the request of the West Lafayette Parks Department where this historic gage is located. A QR code is displayed on an interpretive plaque next to the gage which is located in a high profile...
Loveland Pass Colorado
2016 (approx.)
A view of the highway going over Loveland Pass in Colorado.
Closed canopy plantation
2016 (approx.)
Example of a closed canopy plantation logged 60 years ago at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon, old growth forests have bigger trees and a more complex understory.
2016 (approx.)
This video focuses on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Version 6 land data distributed by NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC). This video will cover how to learn more about MODIS Version 6 data using the LP DAAC website, the MODIS file naming convention, and the external...
A landscape view of the "Devil's Backbone" near Loveland, CO
2016 (approx.)
A landscape view of the "Devil's Backbone" near Loveland, CO.
A sunset in western Loveland, Colorado.
2016 (approx.)
A sunset in western Loveland, Colorado.
2016 (approx.)
Did you know that tree canopy cover can be measured from space? The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor onboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites can do just that by providing data that are used to calculate Leaf Area Index (LAI). LAI is a measurement of green leaf area in broadleaf tree canopies and needle surface area in coniferous tree canopies. This data visualization...
October 2016 (approx.)
This tutorial shows you how to select & download Landsat data using LandsatLook Viewer. The site can be found at: http://landsatlook.usgs.gov/ .
October 2016 (approx.)
This tutorial shows you how to search EarthExplorer using latitude and longitude coordinates.
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Painting - the construction of James Fort, by Sidney E. King
November 28, 2016

The Interior Department’s Climate Science Centers, managed by USGS, are helping the NPS pinpoint the specific impacts of climate change on parks and their cultural and natural resources. Doing so will help managers answer a critical question: which resources will require human intervention to ensure their continued existence?

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse, Cape Lookout National Seashore
November 18, 2016

The Interior Department’s Climate Science Centers, managed by USGS, are helping the National Park Service pinpoint the specific impacts of climate change on parks and their cultural and natural resources. Doing so will help managers answer a critical question: which resources will require human intervention to ensure their continued existence?

This picture was taken June 23, 2010 along the Louisiana shoreline in Barataria Bay and shows oil spilled from Deepwater Horizon
November 17, 2016

A new USGS-NASA study found widespread shoreline loss along heavily oiled areas of Louisiana's coast after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and compared the erosion from the spill with coastal changes Hurricane Isaac caused in 2012.

A group of Brook Trout swim through a stream.
November 16, 2016

A new USGS study shows non-native Brown Trout can place a burden on native Brook Trout under the increased water temperatures climate change can cause.

USGS logo
October 31, 2016

Working together to advance international coordination of Earth observation programs

Paleoclimate Archives and Proxies
October 28, 2016

A new USGS Paleoclimate Research website details our latest research around the world in this intriguing field.

Cyanobacterial bloom in Lake Okeechobee, FL (July 2016)
October 24, 2016

Building knowledge to protect ecological and human health