Combining Landsat and MODIS Long Term Data Records to Assess Trends in Bioproductivity in the Context of Land Use/Land Cover Change in Semi-Arid West Africa

Friday, 19 December 2014: 3:10 PM
Stefanie M Herrmann, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States and G Gray Tappan, USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center, Sioux Falls, SD, United States
Semi-arid West Africa is experiencing change at many levels (climatic, agricultural, socioeconomic), which leaves an imprint on the land surface that can be characterized by a range of long term satellite observations.

This research addresses the questions of (1) what dominant trajectories of land use/land cover (LULC) change have occurred in the region and (2) whether particular LULC trajectories are associated with significant positive or negative trends in bioproductivity.

Two types of satellite data were used in complementary fashion: (1) Landsat multispectral data were visually interpreted using the traditional dot grid method, whereby the interpreter identifies and attributes LULC at point locations spaced 2km apart. Interpreted LULC maps were produced for three points in time (1975, 2000, 2013), and LULC change statistics extracted from them. (2) The MODIS Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was used as a proxy for bioproductivity and temporal trends of annual mean, maximum and minimum NDVI extracted at the sampling dots of known LULC for the period 2000-2013. The trends were analyzed with respect to the most prominent LULC classes and transitions, in particular from agriculture to natural vegetation and vice versa, and stratified by regions of similar mean annual precipitation.

The most important LULC change over the almost 40-year period is a progressive expansion of agricultural lands, which has been responsible for major incursions into the region's remaining savannas and woodlands. To a lesser extent, abandonment of agriculture has given rise to long term fallow and eventually reversion to steppe or savanna. Another important change observed is the expansion of open steppe at the expense of savanna in the Sahel region. In terms of bioproductivity, while no significant trends in NDVI predominate overall, there are more instances of positive than of negative significant trends across the region. Contrary to our initial expectations, preliminary results show little systematic association between LULC change and direction and magnitude of trends in NDVI over the same time period 2000-2013. Though drastically altering vegetation composition and biodiversity, the expansion of agriculture into savanna is not found to be associated with a widespread loss of bioproductivity.