Evaluating Current and Future Rangeland Health in the Great Basin Ecoregion Using NASA Earth Observing Systems

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 11:24 AM
Katie Wilson1,2, Jeffry Ely1,3, Esther Essoudry1,4, Neeshi Patadia1,5, Brittany Zajic1,6, Juan L. Torres-Perez1,7 and Cindy Schmidt1, (1)NASA DEVELOP National Program, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States, (2)Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID, United States, (3)Old Dominion University, Gloucester, VA, United States, (4)University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States, (5)University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (6)University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (7)Bay Area Environmental Research Institute Moffett Field, Moffett Field, CA, United States
The Great Basin ecoregion in the western United States represents one of the last large expanses of wild lands in the nation and is currently facing significant challenges due to human impacts, drought, invasive species encroachment such as cheatgrass, and climate change. Rangelands in the Great Basin are of important ecological and economic significance for the United States; however, 40% of public rangelands fail to meet required health standards set by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This project provided a set of assessment tools for researchers and land managers that integrate remotely-sensed and in situ datasets to quantify and mitigate threats to public lands in the Great Basin ecoregion. The study area, which accounts for 20% of the total Great Basin ecoregion, was analyzed using 30 m resolution data from Landsat 8. Present conditions were evaluated from vegetation indices, landscape features, hydrological processes, and atmospheric conditions derived from the remotely-sensed data and validated with available in situ ground survey data, provided by the BLM. Rangeland health metrics were developed and landscape change drivers were identified. Subsequently, projected climate conditions derived from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) were used to forecast the impact of changing climatic conditions within the study area according to the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 projections. These forecasted conditions were used in the Maximum Entropy Model (MaxEnt) to predict areas at risk for rangeland degradation on 30 year intervals for 2040, 2070, and 2100. Finally, vegetation health risk maps were provided to the project partners to aid in future land management decisions in the Great Basin ecoregion. These tools provide a low cost solution to assess landscape conditions, provide partners with a metric to identify potential problematic areas, and mitigate serious threats to the ecosystems.