Land-use impacts on water resources and protected areas: applications of state-and-transition simulation modeling of future scenarios

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Tamara S Wilson1, Benjamin M Sleeter1, Jason Sherba2 and Dick Cameron3, (1)USGS Western Regional Offices Menlo Park, Menlo Park, CA, United States, (2)U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, United States, (3)The Nature Conservancy, North and Central Coast Region, San Francisco, United States
Human land use will increasingly contribute to habitat losses and water shortages in California, given future population projections and associated demand for agricultural land. Understanding how land-use change may impact future water use and where existing protected areas may be threatened by land-use conversion will be important if effective, sustainable management approaches are to be implemented. We used a state-and-transition simulation modeling (STSM) framework to simulate spatially-explicit (1 km2) historical (1992-2010) and future (2011-2060) land-use change for 52 California counties within the Mediterranean California ecoregion. Historical land use change estimates were derived from the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program (FMMP) dataset and attributed with county-level agricultural water-use data from the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR). Six future alternative land-use scenarios were developed and modeled using the historical land-use change estimates and land-use projections based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) A2 and B1 scenarios. Resulting spatial land-use scenario outputs were combined based on scenario agreement and a land conversion threat index developed to evaluate vulnerability of existing protected areas. Modeled scenario output of county-level agricultural water use data were also summarized, enabling examination of alternative water use futures. We present results of two separate applications of STSM of land-use change, demonstrating the utility of STSM in analyzing land-use related impacts on water resources as well as potential threats to existing protected land. Exploring a range of alternative, yet plausible, land-use change impacts will help to better inform resource management and mitigation strategies.