Mission Areas

Climate and Land Use Change

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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
Filter Total Items: 67
Birds in a wetland
Date Published: April 12, 2016

Science projects are the backbone of the NCCWSC and CSCs. Our projects are based on the needs of our partners, including land managers, natural/cultural resource managers, tribal and indigenous communities. Our research is complemented by our other efforts that include training the next generation of scientists and conducting national synthesis projects that cross CSC boundaries.

Photograph of Mount Rainier and Orting, Washington
Date Published: April 11, 2016

Risk and vulnerability studies that seek to improve the scientific basis for assessments and develop quantitative, qualitative, geospatial decision support tools that characterize and communicate the vulnerability of both human communities and natural ecosystems.

Photograph of bats
Date Published: April 11, 2016

Researchers develop spatially-explicit models of ecosystem extent and functioning, and methodologies for the assessment of ecosystem goods and services, with an emphasis on understanding how they respond to changing landscape and climatic conditions.

Land Change in LCC regions
Date Published: April 11, 2016

Scientific study of land use and land cover change at multiple scales, documenting geographic variability of change and defining the environmental, social, technological, and political drivers of change, as well as assessing the impacts of these changes.

Rookery Bay NERR, FL, USA
Date Published: April 8, 2016
Status: Active

Hydrologic restoration is one of several approaches to rehabilitate mangroves on a large-scale. USGS evaluates how solely restoring tidal hydrologic flows affect the recovery of mangroves in Florida. 

Elevated CO2 Facility, WARC, Lafayette, LA, USA
Date Published: April 8, 2016

Wetlands have the potential to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide via photosynthesis, and flooded soils have low oxygen levels which decrease rates of decomposition to promote the retention of soil carbon. However, the type of greenhouse gases emitted from wetlands varies by wetland type and soil condition. A suite of approaches are being used to assess  fluxes of greenhouses gases, like...

Strawberry Swamp, Hobcaw Barony, SC, USA
Date Published: April 8, 2016

USGS investigates the eco-physiological responses of coastal forested wetland vegetation to envrionmental stressors, and what role vegetation may have in affecting local hydrological cycling as a result of these stressors. 

Figure 1. Major study areas of the TFFW vegetation modeling system (Krauss et al., 2009)
Date Published: April 8, 2016

As tidal freshwater forested wetlands - TFFWs - are influenced by salinty due to salt water intrusion, they may experience changes in plant community composition, growth, and productivity. Models are needed to predict vegetation community change or dieback, as well as changes in carbon sequestration and storage due to changing climate, drought, changes in freshwater discharge, elevated carbon...

Grinnell Glacier Basin 2014
Date Published: April 8, 2016
Status: Active

A similar view of Grinnell Glacier from the glacier's eastern terminus shows extensive melting and subsequent result, Upper Grinnell Lake.

Please respect the photographer: When using these photographs, please credit the photographer and source (eg. T.J. Hileman, courtesy of Glacier National Park Archives). The paired images at the top of this page are examples of proper crediting for...

Contacts: Lisa McKeon
Sampit River, SC, USA
Date Published: April 8, 2016

Tidal freshwater forested wetlands - TFFWs - can be found in the upper intertidal areas of many estuaries and act as a transition between coastal marshes and bottomland hardwood wetlands. However, it is because of their location that makes them vulnerable to sea-level rise, and they are constantly transitioning to different wetland types. USGS addresses how various processes are affected in...

Tidally Influenced Freshwater Forested Wetlands
Date Published: April 8, 2016

Wetlands in river deltas - like the Mississippi River Delta Plain - may be more vulnerable to sea-level rise. Historically, coastal wetlands responded to these changes by increasing surface elevation or migrating up-slope. USGS conducts research to identify the biogeochemical influences on sediment addition in coastal wetland areas. 

Controlled greenhouse experiments manipulating the marsh elevation and flood duration
Date Published: April 8, 2016

Sudden Marsh Dieback - SMD - has been documented for the past two decades throughout coastal areas of the United States. With these large-scale diebacks comes the loss of ecosystem functions and services. USGS scientsts use field work and greenhouse studies to investigate the factors that control the resilience and resistance of coastal salt marshes to SMD. 

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Year Published: 2009

Coastline degradation as an indicator of global change

Finding a climate change signal on coasts is more problematic than often assumed. Coasts undergo natural dynamics at many scales, with erosion and recovery in response to climate variability such as El Niño, or extreme events such as storms and infrequent tsunamis. Additionally, humans have had enormous impacts on most coasts, overshadowing...

Letcher, Trevor M.; Nicholls, Robert J.; Woodroffe, Colin D.; Burkett, Virginia

Year Published: 2009

Late Cenozoic geology and lacustrine history of Searles Valley, Inyo and San Bernardino Counties, California

Searles Valley is an arid, closed basin lying 70 km east of the south end of the Sierra Nevada, California. It is bounded on the east and northeast by the Slate Range, on the west by the Argus Range and Spangler Hills, and on the south by the Lava Mountains; Searles (dry) Lake occupies the north-central part of the valley. During those parts of...

Smith, George I.
Late Cenozoic Geology and Lacustrine History of Searles Valley, Inyo and San Bernardino Counties, California; 2009; PP; 1727; Smith, George I.

Year Published: 2008

Modeling and dynamic monitoring of ecosystem performance in the Yukon River Basin

Central Alaska is ecologically sensitive and experiencing stress in response to marked regional warming. Resource managers would benefit from an improved ability to monitor ecosystem processes in response to climate change, fire, insect damage, and management policies and to predict responses to future climate scenarios. We have developed a method...

Wylie, B.K.; Zhang, L.; Ji, L.; Tieszen, L.L.; Bliss, N.B.
Modeling and Dynamic Monitoring of Ecosystem Performance in the Yukon River Basin; 2008; FS; 2008-3016; Wylie, B. K.; Zhang, L.; Ji, L.; Tieszen, L. L.; Bliss, N. B.

Year Published: 2007

Acid rain in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Visitors to Shenandoah National Park (SNP) enjoy the animal and plant life and the scenery but may not realize how vulnerable these features are to various threats, such as invasion of exotic plants and insects, improper use of park resources by humans, and air and water pollution. The National Park Service strives to protect natural resources...

Rice, Karen C.; Deviney, Frank A.; Olson, Gordon
Acid rain in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia; 2007; FS; 2007-3057; Rice, Karen C.; Deviney, Frank A., Jr.; Olson, Gordon

Year Published: 2006

Coastal-change and glaciological map of the Trinity Peninsula area and south Shetland Islands, Antarctica: 1843-2001: Chapter A in Coastal-change and glaciological maps of Antarctica

Changes in the area and volume of polar ice sheets are intricately linked to changes in global climate, and the resulting changes in sea level could severely impact the densely populated coastal regions on Earth. Melting of the West Antarctic part alone of the Antarctic ice sheet would cause a sea-level rise of approximately 6 meters (m). The...

Ferrigno, Jane G.; Cook, Alison J.; Foley, Kevin M.; Williams, Richard S.; Swithinbank, Charles; Fox, Adrian J.; Thomson, Janet W.; Sievers, Jorn
Coastal-change and glaciological map of the Trinity Peninsula area and south Shetland Islands, Antarctica: 1843-2001: Chapter A in Coastal-change and glaciological maps of Antarctica; 2006; I; 2600-A; Coastal-change and glaciological maps of Antarctica: IMAP 2600; Ferrigno, Jane G.; Cook, Alison J.; Foley, Kevin M.; Williams, Richard S., Jr.; Swithinbank, Charles; Fox, Adrian J.; Thomson, Janet W.; Sievers, Jorn

Year Published: 2004

Dust storms and their impact on ocean and human health: dust in Earth's atmosphere

Satellite imagery has greatly influenced our understanding of dust activity on a global scale. A number of different satellites such as NASA's Earth-Probe Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) and Se-viewing Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) acquire daily global-scale data used to produce imagery for monitoring dust storm formation and movement....

Griffin, Dale W.; Kellog, Christina A.
Dust storms and their impact on ocean and human health: dust in Earth's atmosphere; 2004; Article; Journal; EcoHealth; Griffin, Dale W.; Kellog, Christina A.

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September 29, 2017
Landsat 8 imagery shows the change in vegetation on Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. At the USGS EROS Center, we study land change, operate the Landsat satellites, and maintain the longest, continuously acquired collection of images of the Earth's land surface. USGS EROS Center ( https://eros.usgs.gov/ )
September 19, 2017
Hurricane Irma churned up sediment around the Florida keys as shown by these Landsat images. At the USGS EROS Center, we study land change, operate the Landsat satellites, and maintain the longest, continuously acquired collection of images of the Earth's land surface. USGS EROS Center ( https://eros.usgs.gov/ )
September 19, 2017
This is the third video in a series describing the new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat Collection 1 inventory structure. Collection 1 required the reprocessing of all archived Landsat data to achieve radiometric and geometric consistency of Level-1 products through time and across all Landsat sensors. This video explains how Landsat Collection Level-1 data products are organized into one of...
September 15, 2017
Hurricane Irma's full force hit the small island of Barbuda, damaging estimated 95% of structures. At the USGS EROS Center, we study land change, operate the Landsat satellites, and maintain the longest, continuously acquired collection of images of the Earth's land surface. USGS EROS Center ( https://eros.usgs.gov/ )
Panoramic image from Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park showing smoke from forest fires.
September 12, 2017
Panoramic image from Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park showing smoke from forest fires. Information gathered by the USGS managed Sperry Weather Station are being used by regional fire managers to forecast fire weather and future fire behavior.
USGS weather station repair operations in Glacier NP.
September 12, 2017
Crews perform repairs on the Sperry Weather Station as part of Fire Operations in Glacier National Park. Information gathered by the USGS managed Sperry Weather Station are being used by regional fire managers to forecast fire weather and future fire behavior during the 2017 fire season.
USGS scientist doing weather station repairs in Glacier National Park.
September 12, 2017
USGS scientist Erich Peitzsch does repair on the Sperry Weather Station in Glacier National Park. Information gathered by the USGS managed Sperry Weather Station are being used by regional fire managers to forecast fire weather and future fire behavior during the 2017 fire season.
September 8, 2017
Hurricane Harvey dumped over 50 inches of rain near Houston, leaving extensive flooding throughout the area. At the USGS EROS Center, we study land change, operate the Landsat satellites, and maintain the longest, continuously acquired collection of images of the Earth's land surface. USGS EROS Center ( https://eros.usgs.gov/ )
Algal bloom off the coast of Brazil, Landsat 2017 image
September 5, 2017
In early September 2017, Landsat 8 captured this image of what looked like an oil spill off the coast of Brazil, near Sao Paulo. The "oil" turned out to be a vast algal bloom that covered more than 100 km. This bloom was the result of a species of tiny dinoflagellate that multiplied quickly to produce astronomical numbers -- enough to color the ocean water.
August 31, 2017
Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25th. Over the next few days, record rain totals had devastated the area. At the USGS EROS Center, we study land change, operate the Landsat satellites, and maintain the longest, continuously acquired collection of images of the Earth's land surface. USGS EROS Center ( https://eros.usgs.gov/ )
August 28, 2017
Gypsy Moth populations are at their highest levels since the 1980s, causing damage to hardwood trees in the New England area. At the USGS EROS Center, we study land change, operate the Landsat satellites, and maintain the longest, continuously acquired collection of images of the Earth's land surface. USGS EROS Center ( https://eros.usgs.gov/ )
August 21, 2017
On Monday, August 21, 2017, several locations throughout the United States will experience total darkness during the first total solar eclipse in the U.S. in nearly 40 years. Follow along with this video to see satellite imagery of several of these locations that will experience complete darkness for a few minutes when the eclipse occurs. Will you be watching from one of these locations? The...
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Dr. Christian Zimmerman, USGS Alaska Science Center Director
February 1, 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Christian Zimmerman as the new director of their Alaska Science Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Zimmerman succeeds Dr. Mark Shasby who held the position for the past six years.

Image shows a satellite view of the Okomu Forest of Nigeria
January 26, 2017

As part of a new atlas of imagery for West Africa, nearly 33 years of land-use change can be seen in Nigeria's Okomu Forest Reserve.

Wading birds feed near wooden posts marking a research site in a Louisiana salt marsh
January 25, 2017

Changes in rainfall and temperature are predicted to transform wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world within the century, a new study from the USGS and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley concludes.

Aerial view of the caldera of Mt Tambora, island of Sumbawa, Indonesia.
January 18, 2017

Hundreds of articles have been written about the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, at Indonesia’s Mt. Tambora just over 200 years ago. But for a small group of New England-based researchers, one more Tambora story needed to be told, one related to its catastrophic effects in the Gulf of Maine that may carry lessons for intertwined human-natural systems facing climate change today.

Map of Chesapeake Bay and Its Tributaries Showing Sediment Sources and Core Sites 1995-2006
January 17, 2017

Richard Batiuk got to know the Chesapeake Bay in the early 1970s. During visits with his friends and family, they would swim and boat, and fish would practically jump aboard. He was young but knew he wanted to live and work on the bay.

Weakened livestock, West Arsi, Ethiopia
December 15, 2016

Monitoring drought vital to success of humanitarian relief