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Land Resources

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Land Resource 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: 70
Date published: May 5, 2016

Climate Change in Mountain Ecosystems (CCME)

Climate change is widely acknowledged to be having a profound effect on the biosphere with many and diverse impacts on global resources. Mountain ecosystems in the western U.S. and the Northern Rockies in particular are highly sensitive to climate change. In fact, the higher elevations of the Northern Rockies have experienced three times the global average temperature increase over the past...

Date published: May 2, 2016
Status: Active

Dendrochronology of Coastal Forests to Evaluate Impacts of Wind and Surge from Hurricane Sandy

The science of dating growth rings and history of live and fossil wood samples is called dendrochronology. This technique is valuable for conducting climate reconstructions where meteorological data is lacking and for detecting past disturbance events such as tropical storms and hurricanes.

Date published: May 2, 2016

Assessing Treefall Patterns and Causal Relations of Wind and Surge from Hurricane Sandy

As tropical storms and hurricanes move onshore and make landfall, wind and storm surge can be sufficiently high to damage built-infrastructure and natural systems, most notably coastal forests at the interface of land and sea.

Date published: May 2, 2016
Status: Active

Aerial Videography Overflights of Forest Cover and Impact from Hurricane Sandy along the Atlantic Coast, USA

High resolution imagery (aerial videography) was obtained of Hurricane Sandy to assess forest damage by documenting disturbed canopy and downed trees. 

Date published: April 18, 2016
Status: Active

Hurricane Sandy Surge and Marsh Dieback in the New Jersey Coastal Zone

Detection of storm surge impacts on coastal marshes requires regional or broader mapping of surge flooding above and below the wetland canopy and estimation of abnormal change in wetland condition.

Contacts: Amina Rangoonwala, Elijah Ramsey , III, Ph.D., Nicholas Enright
Date published: April 18, 2016

Joint Research on Water and Sedimentation Changes and Potential Impacts on Biodiversity along the Porsuk River, Turkey

The Porsuk River floodplain near Eskisehir, Turkey contains a large number of wetlands, which have been managed by humans for millennia.

Date published: April 18, 2016

Long-term Trends in Swamp Tree Growth across Drought and Salinity Gradients along the Northern Gulf Coast

This study will examine the potential effects of climate-change-induced sea level rise, drought and water extraction by examining tree growth patterns across the Gulf Coast, specifically targeting long-term research plots available in the North American Baldcypress Swamp Network (NABCSN) and the Suwannee River.

Date published: April 17, 2016

Climate Envelope Modeling for Evaluating Anticipated Effects of Climate Change on Threatened and Endangered Species

Modeling both potential changes in climate and responses of species and habitats can increase certainty in management decisions by helping managers to understand the range of possible species and habitat responses under different alternative futures. Climate envelope modeling is one type of modeling that can be useful in understanding species and habitat responses to climate change because it...

Date published: April 17, 2016

Peninsular Florida Landscape Conservation Cooperative (PFLCC) Climate Scenarios and Species Vulnerability Assessment

Peninsular Florida is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change in the United States. With complex socioeconomic and ecology dynamics and a large number of governing agencies involved in conservation planning, USGS worked to created an appropriate framework for landscape conservation cooperative-scale decision-making across current conservation planning agencies and jurisdictions...

Date published: April 17, 2016
Status: Active

Coral Bleaching and Disease: Effects on Threatened Corals and Reefs

Severe coral bleaching in 2005, followed by a disease outbreak, resulted in severe reef degradation in the US Virgin Islands; the amount of living coral cover at long-term monitoring sites decreased an average of 60%. With climate change, high seawater temperatures are expected to lead to more frequent bleaching episodes and possibly more disease outbreaks. 

Date published: April 17, 2016

Macroclimatic Controls of Coastal Wetland Ecosystem Structure and Function

At the global-scale, macroclimatic drivers govern ecosystem structure and function in tidal saline wetlands (e.g., salt marshes, mangrove forests, salt flats). However, global reviews and models for these ecosystems typically do not directly include climatic drivers. The objective of this research is to examine and forecast the effects of macroclimatic drivers on wetland ecosystem structure...

Date published: April 17, 2016

Geographical Trends in Ecosystem Function and Biodiversity of Wetlands as a Surrogate for Climate Change

Extreme drought and temperature in the southeastern United States may become more frequent in the future, and any  extreme shifts in climate condition are likely to have effects on wetland ecosystem function. USGS research predicts the effects of climate change by shifts in function and biodiversity across existing  climate gradients in baldcypress swamps. 

Filter Total Items: 135
Year Published: 2017

Tambora and the mackerel year: phenology and fisheries during an extreme climate event

Global warming has increased the frequency of extreme climate events, yet responses of biological and human communities are poorly understood, particularly for aquatic ecosystems and fisheries. Retrospective analysis of known outcomes may provide insights into the nature of adaptations and trajectory of subsequent conditions. We consider the 1815...

Alexander, Karen E.; Leavenworth, William B.; Hall, Carolyn; Mattocks, Steven; Bittner, Steven M.; Klein, Emily; Staudinger, Michelle D.; Bryan, Alexander; Rosset, Julianne; Willis, Theodore V.; Carr, Benjamin H.; Jordaan, Adrian

Year Published: 2017

Macroclimatic change expected to transform coastal wetland ecosystems this century

Coastal wetlands, existing at the interface between land and sea, are highly vulnerable to climate change. Macroclimate (for example, temperature and precipitation regimes) greatly influences coastal wetland ecosystem structure and function. However, research on climate change impacts in coastal wetlands has concentrated primarily on sea-level...

Gabler, Christopher A.; Osland, Michael J.; Grace, James B.; Stagg, Camille L.; Day, Richard H.; Hartley, Stephen B.; Enwright, Nicholas M.; From, Andrew; McCoy, Meagan L.; McLeod, Jennie L.
Gabler, C.A., Osland, M.J., Grace, J.B., Stagg, C.L., Day, R.H., Hartley, S.B., Enwright, N.M., From, A.S., McCoy, M.L., and McLeod, J.L., 2017, Macroclimatic change expected to transform coastal wetland ecosystems this century: Nature Climate Change, Advanced Online, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3203.

Year Published: 2017

Ecosystem extent and fragmentation

One of the candidate essential biodiversity variable (EBV) groups described in the seminal paper by Pereira et al. (2014) concerns Ecosystem Structure. This EBV group is distinguished from another EBV group which encompasses aspects of Ecosystem Function. While the Ecosystem Function EBV treats ecosystem processes like nutrient cycling, primary...

Sayre, Roger; Hansen, Matt
Attribution: Land Resources

Year Published: 2017

The role of fish in a globally changing food system

Though humans have been fishing for food since they first created tools to hunt, modern food systems are predominately terrestrial focused and fish are frequently overlooked. Yet, within the global food system, fish play an important role in meeting current and future food needs. Capture fisheries are the last large-scale “wild” food, and...

Lynch, Abigail J.; MacMillan, J. Randy

Year Published: 2016

Northeast and Midwest regional species and habitats at greatest risk and most vulnerable to climate impacts

The objectives of this Chapter are to describe climate change vulnerability, it’s components, the range of assessment methods being implemented regionally, and examples of training resources and tools. Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments (CCVAs) have already been conducted for numerous Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need and their...

Staudinger, Michelle D.; Hilberg, Laura; Janowiak, Maria; Swanton, C.O.

Year Published: 2016

Twitter predicts citation rates of ecological research

The relationship between traditional metrics of research impact (e.g., number of citations) and alternative metrics (altmetrics) such as Twitter activity are of great interest, but remain imprecisely quantified. We used generalized linear mixed modeling to estimate the relative effects of Twitter activity, journal impact factor, and time since...

Peoples, Brandon K.; Midway, Stephen R.; Sackett, Dana K.; Lynch, Abigail; Cooney, Patrick B.

Year Published: 2016

Managing climate change refugia for climate adaptation

Refugia have long been studied from paleontological and biogeographical perspectives to understand how populations persisted during past periods of unfavorable climate. Recently, researchers have applied the idea to contemporary landscapes to identify climate change refugia, here defined as areas relatively buffered from contemporary climate...

Morelli, Toni L.; Jackson, Stephen T.

Year Published: 2016

Multidecadal increases in the Yukon River Basin of chemical fluxes as indicators of changing flowpaths, groundwater, and permafrost

The Yukon River Basin, underlain by discontinuous permafrost, has experienced a warming climate over the last century that has altered air temperature, precipitation, and permafrost. We investigated a water chemistry database from 1982 to 2014 for the Yukon River and its major tributary, the Tanana River. Significant increases of Ca, Mg, and Na...

Toohey, Ryan C; Herman-Mercer, Nicole M.; Schuster, Paul F.; Mutter, Edda A.; Koch, Joshua C.
Toohey, R. C., Herman-Mercer, N. M., Schuster, P. F., Mutter, E. A., and Koch, J. C., 2016, Multidecadal increases in the Yukon River Basin of chemical fluxes as indicators of changing flowpaths, groundwater, and permafrost, Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 10.1002/2016GL070817.

Year Published: 2016

Toward a national, sustained U.S. ecosystem assessment

The massive investment of resources devoted to monitoring and assessment of economic and societal indicators in the United States is neither matched by nor linked to efforts to monitor and assess the ecosystem services and biodiversity that support economic and social well-being. Although national-scale assessments of biodiversity (1) and...

Jackson, Stephen T.; Duke, Clifford S.; Hampton, Stephanie E.; Jacobs, Katharine L.; Joppa, Lucas N.; Kassam, Karim-Aly S. K.; Mooney, Harold A.; Ogden, Laura A.; Ruckelshaus, Mary; Shogren, Jason F.

Year Published: 2016

Uncertainty quantification and propagation for projections of extremes in monthly area burned under climate change: A case study in the coastal plain of Georgia, USA: Chapter 16

No abstract available.

Riley, Karin L.; Webley, Peter; Thompson, Matthew; Terando, Adam J.; Reich, Brian J.; Pacifici, Krishna; Costanza, Jennifer; McKerrow, Alexa; Collazo, Jaime A.
Attribution: Land Resources

Year Published: 2016

Climate change impacts on ecosystems and ecosystem services in the United States: Process and prospects for sustained assessment

The third United States National Climate Assessment emphasized an evaluation of not just the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems, but also the impacts of climate change on the benefits that people derive from nature, known as ecosystem services. The ecosystems, biodiversity, and ecosystem services component of the assessment...

Grimm, Nancy B.; Groffman, Peter M; Staudinger, Michelle D.; Tallis, Heather
Grimm, N.B., Groffman, P., Staudinger, M.D., and H. Tallis. 2016. Climate change impacts on ecosystems and ecosystem services in the United States: process and prospects for sustained assessment. Climatic Change, 135: 97–109.

Year Published: 2016

Stakeholder views of management and decision support tools to integrate climate change into Great Lakes Lake Whitefish management

Decision support tools can aid decision making by systematically incorporating information, accounting for uncertainties, and facilitating evaluation between alternatives. Without user buy-in, however, decision support tools can fail to influence decision-making processes. We surveyed fishery researchers, managers, and fishers affiliated with the...

Lynch, Abigail J.; Taylor, William W.; McCright, Aaron M.
Lynch, A. J., W. W. Taylor, A. M. McCright. 2016. Stakeholder views of management and decision support tools to integrate climate change into Great Lakes Lake Whitefish management. Fisheries. 41(11): 644-652.

Filter Total Items: 229
January 9, 2018

Landsat in Action - Tracking Water Changes with John Schott

John Schott with the Rochester Institute of Technology discusses using Landsat Data over the years, and how its Thermal data tracks temperature changes in water bodies.

The Salar de Atacama salt flat in Chile
January 4, 2018

From Chile to Your Smartphone

If you like being connected to the world everywhere you go with a smartphone or other device, then you have a desolate salt flat in northern Chile to thank.

January 4, 2018

Image of the Week - Southern California Wildfires Update

After a month, the wildfires of Southern California are nearly contained. Landsat 8 imagery shows the dramatic burn scars left behind.

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 (...

color photo
January 1, 2018

Ross Archipelago

This image of the Ross Archipelago near the McMurdo Station in Antarctica was acquired January 1, 2018, by Landsat 8, almost exactly a decade after USGS and NASA officials signed off on a Landsat Data Distribution Policy that made Landsat images free to the public.

sediment trap mooring deployed in the Gulf of Mexico
December 31, 2017

sediment trap mooring deployed in the Gulf of Mexico

The sediment trap mooring deployed in the Gulf of Mexico (27.5 ºN, 90.3 ºW) at 700 meters water depth from 2008-2018. It is programmed to rotate every 7-14 days throughout the year, resulting in a weekly to bi-weekly resolution time series of sinking particle flux. 

color photo
December 31, 2017

Understory - EROS LiDAR

Example of lidar-derived metric products of canopy structure. A) Image showing an area characterized by varied forest strands.  (Red box shows from where profile data in E area taken.) B) Lidar-derived maximum canopy height.  C) Lidar-derived height of low- to medium-height vegetation beneath the overstory canopy. D) Density of vegetation at 2-4 m within the canopy.  Note how spatial patterns...

Glacier off Sargent Icefield
December 31, 2017

Glacier off Sargent Icefield

Landscape view of an un-named glacier off the Sargent Icefield, directly across from Wolverine Glacier, above the Nellie Juan River, in Alaska. Taken during a visit to a wolverine glacier field site as part of a study to examine how alpine areas are changing as temperatures rise in Alaska. 

December 31, 2017

Landsat Collections

Landsat Collections: Providing a Stable Environmental Record for Time Series Analysis

This video introduces 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...

LiDAR image
December 31, 2017

Superior National Forest - EROS LiDAR

A profile view from the normalized point cloud in Superior National Forest, notice the flattened ground surface.  Points are colored by elevation.

December 31, 2017

Getting Started with MODIS Version 6 Therm. Anom. & Fire Data Part 1

This video focuses on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Version 6 Thermal Anomalies and Fire data distributed by NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC).  Information about the MODIS Version 6 Thermal Anomalies and Fire data products, changes between the Version 5 and Version...

quadcopter (drone) and camera ready for launch
December 31, 2017

Quadcopter's photos can be used to measure dune erosion

The 3DR Solo with GoPro Hero4 camera and gimbal. Coming to a survey area near you soon. Photo credit: Shawn Harrison, USGS. This photo was taken during USGS unmanned aerial systems (drone) pilot training. Two training sessions were held - one in February-March 2017 in Santa Cruz, California and the second in April 2017 in Gainesville, Florida. This photo originally was...

December 31, 2017

Getting Started with MODIS Version 6 Therm. Anom. and Fire Data Part 2

This video focuses on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Version 6 Thermal Anomalies and Fire data distributed by NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC).  Information about the MODIS Version 6 Thermal Anomalies and Fire data products, the thematic fire mask classes, and using...

Filter Total Items: 185
Date published: June 1, 2017

As Hurricane Season Opens, USGS Is Ready

Scientists work in the field before, during and after landfall to improve forecasting and recovery.



Date published: May 25, 2017

Mapping Chesapeake's Future From Today's Land Use

USGS’ pixel-by-pixel land use forecasts offer essential road maps for restoration. 

Date published: May 10, 2017

Glaciers Rapidly Shrinking and Disappearing: 50 Years of Glacier Change in Montana

The warming climate has dramatically reduced the size of 39 glaciers in Montana since 1966, some by as much as 85 percent, according to data released by the U.S. Geological Survey and Portland State University.

Date published: May 3, 2017

Migrating mule deer track “green waves” of spring forage: study highlights importance of habitat corridors for migrating game and other species

Migratory mule deer in Wyoming closely time their movements to track the spring green-up, providing evidence of an underappreciated foraging benefit of migration, according to a study by University of Wyoming and U.S. Geological Survey scientists at the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

Date published: April 24, 2017

Mapping the World’s Ocean Ecosystems

The world’s oceans are vital to life on Earth. They provide food, moderate the climate, water the land, and drive the local and global economy. But the living conditions and resources in the enormous water masses of the open ocean have been mostly unknown and unmapped. 

Date published: April 14, 2017

Freshwater Ecosystems are an Important Part of the Alaskan Carbon Cycle

While freshwater ecosystems cover only a small amount of the land surface in Alaska, they transport and emit a significant amount of carbon, according to new U.S. Geological Survey research. An invited feature article for Ecological Applications provides the first-ever major aquatic carbon flux assessment for the entire state. Carbon flux refers to the rate of carbon transfer between pools.

Date published: April 2, 2017

Landsat Monitors Mining at Center of North America, Near Town of Center

Today, Landsat shows us the evolution of the coal industry near North America & North Dakota’s Center...

Date published: March 24, 2017

Cambodia Experiences Rapid Rate of Forest Loss

In this week's Landsat view, Landsat 5 and Landsat 8 show how significant Cambodia's deforestation has been in the last few decades.

Date published: March 24, 2017

New “Landsat Collections” Help Facilitate Land Change Science

Access to consistent high-quality images to study changes on Earth’s surface is getting easier. The USGS Landsat standard (Level-1) product inventory is now structured by data quality and offers improved calibration. Data designated as Tier 1 provide the highest accuracy and can be reliably used to analyze changes to Earth’s surface over time.

Date published: March 16, 2017

Landsat Detects Eruptions at Ethiopian Volcano

Our image of the week is of Ethiopia’s erupting Gateway to Hell.

Date published: February 27, 2017

Successful Maneuver Spells Beginning of the End for Landsat 7

On Tuesday, February 7, Landsat 7’s Flight Operations Team fired the spacecraft’s 1-pound thrusters for about 13 minutes. After a pause of about 7½ hours, the thrusters fired a second time for about 13 minutes.This was the last such maneuver for Landsat 7 and the beginning of the end for the satellite, which has provided images of the earth’s changing resources for more than 17 years.