Related Research Areas
Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems

Proposal summary: Leveraging temporal variation in climate and management across national parks in the western U.S. to characterize three decades of landscape vegetation dynamics, R. E. Kennedy, PhD, Principal Investigator. Because changes in vegetation dynamics can adversely affect ecological and socioeconomic systems, understanding vegetation dynamics and the processes that drive them is critical for long-term management and health of those systems, and, by extension, of the Earth system as a whole. The overarching science goal of the project is to develop satellite-based maps of changes in vegetation dynamics over time, and to then test whether spatial and temporal patterns of change can be used to infer the relative importance of human management and climate change on those dynamics. A key component of the work will be development of a strong outreach program to relate the research to the public. The project focuses on ten national parks in the western United States. Because they are managed for conservation, national parks act as unique test beds to compare the effects of human management practices inside and outside the parks. Climate cycles that change from year to year exert opposing pressures on vegetation dynamics in different parks at different times, allowing study of how these opposing climate effects interact with management approaches. By analyzing changing patterns of vegetation dynamics over many climate cycles and management styles, greater understanding of the processes that drive those changes can be achieved, which in turn can be incorporate into management systems and models that help human better predict and manage for future change. Vegetation dynamics will be mapped for the past two to three decades using a rich archive of satellite imagery from the Landsat sensors. The PI’s new approach to mapping vegetation dynamics provides opportunities to track the timing, severity, and type of change for vegetative processes that have typically been difficult or impossible to map before. Initially, the approach will be applied for the period from 1984 to present, and later in the project tests will be made of strategies for expanding the historical depth of the methodology and for generalizing to new systems. Education and outreach will capitalize on the strong tradition of formal and informal education in national parks. A trained education program evaluator will help a core team of park interpreters and education specialists to develop distance-learning and in-house training sessions in the use and interpretation of satellite imagery . This team will then develop and integrate the results of the research into their various outreach programs, and at the end of the project will evaluate and summarize how effective the project and their own programs have been in meeting their targets. The research will have applicability to several audiences, as indicated by the broad range of individuals and institutions collaborating on this proposal. Investigation of the response of the Earth system to natural and human-influenced change is a key goal of NASA’s Earth Science program, and this research will provide new tools to understand several new processes leading toward that goal. The National Park System’s Inventory and Management program will benefit directly from maps of vegetation change, as these will provide context for understanding future change. Finally, the methods of tracking and describing change in vegetation over time will have direct interest to national-level mapping efforts, as indicated by the collaboration on this proposal of the multi-agency Landfire project.

PI: Robert Kennedy/USDA Forest Service

USDA Forest Service and Oregon State University
3200 SW Jefferson Way
Corvallis, OR 97331

Phone: 541-750-7498



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Started: Aug 09, 2010

Last Activity: Dec 07, 2010


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