Eastern Geographic Science Center
Description of Current Projects
Land use change associated with development alters surface water flow patterns and affects landscape water quality, quantity, and timing, impacting area streams and downstream estuaries and ecosystems. Best Management Practices (BMPs) are specific structures and actions designed to mitigate, or lessen, the negative environmental effects of land use change; however, the individual and collective benefits of these efforts at the local and regional scale are poorly tracked and understood. USGS scientists are working in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, Montgomery County, Maryland, government, and the University of Maryland, to better understand the mitigating effect of local level BMPs on the impacts of development.
Causes and Consequences of Land Use and Land Cover Changes in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
The long-term success of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort depends on our ability to understand the causes and consequences of land use and land cover changes. Over the past 30 years, human activities such as tillage techniques, over-fertilization, forest clearing, and paving have left a legacy of impacts that the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) Partners are addressing. Over the next 30-years, continued changes to the landscape due to human activities and climate pose great challenges to our ability to restore and maintain the ecosystem. Human populations, and associated urban areas, are expected to grow to 19 million people by the year 2030 and will be the major factor impacting restoration of the ecosystem (Boesch and Greer, 2003). The CBP Partners formally recognized the impact of human activities on the Bay watershed and committed to addressing them in 1987 and again in 2000.
The CBP Partners currently identify three “keystone” commitments related to land use and management:
The objectives of this project are based on the USGS Chesapeake Science Plan and directly support the first five of nine geographic research goals detailed in the USGS Science Strategy for Geographic Research (USGS Circular 1281). The objectives also support four of the five themes of the USGS Geographic Analysis and Monitoring Program and several of the priority activities of the USGS Land Remote Sensing Program.
The work of the USGS Chesapeake Bay Program address the following four science themes of the USGS Chesapeake Bay Science Plan:
Multidiscipline project plans are being prepared for each theme above and investigators will coordinate activities and synthesize findings between projects to provide integrated science to support effective ecosystem conservation and restoration for Chesapeake Bay and apply the implications to other ecosystems.
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Detecting Evidence of Climate Change in the Forests of the Eastern United States
Can evidence of climate change impacts on vegetation phenology be found in moderate-resolution satellite imagery? If changes are evident, what is their impact on fluxes of water and nutrients from the headwater streams of the Potomac River? Evolving streamflow and microclimatic conditions that are caused by changing watershed land use make the analysis of relationships among vegetation fluctuations, climate, and hydrology difficult. Because they are protected from direct land use changes, the Potomac Watershed headwaters found in the Shenandoah National Park (SNP) present excellent real-world laboratories for the investigation of relationships among vegetation fluctuations, climate, non-anthropogenic disturbances, and hydrology.
Ecosystem Portfolio Model - Ecosystem Analysis in South Florida
The Ecosystem Portfolio Model (EPM), a Web-based tool, is being used to investigate and communicate ecological values of land between the Everglades and Biscayne Bay, in Miami-Dade County, Florida. This tool was developed in conjunction with partners at the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Florida, and the University of Pennsylvania. The tool is used to develop, assess, and communicate strategies for restoring and protecting important ecological values of the remaining open land in southern Miami-Dade County. The intense development pressure in this area could adversely affect Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, and the land bridge in between them.
This activity is part of the USGS Land Cover Trends Project, which is a joint effort between the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration to study the types, rates, causes, and consequences of land use and land cover change in the conterminous United States for the 1973 – 2000 period. Eighty-four “ecoregions,” (Figure 1) each containing a geographically distinct assemblage of environmental conditions, natural communities, and species, provide a geographic framework for the project and serve as separate reporting units. A sampling approach using randomly selected 10-km by 10-km sample blocks is used to estimate land cover change in each ecoregion. The goal is to provide estimates within one percent of the actual land change at an 85-percent confidence level. Historical Landsat Multispectral Scanner, Thematic Mapper, and Enhanced Thematic Mapper satellite imagery, along with historical aerial photography, topographic maps, field observations, and socioeconomic data are used to derive land cover maps for five separate dates (1973, 1980, 1986, 1992, and 2000). The sample block land cover data are used to analyze the types, rates, causes, and consequences of land cover change.
Goals and Objectives:
The EGSC National Land Cover Database (NLCD) team collaborates with teams at three other USGS Science Centers to develop, maintain and analyze NLCD data, which describes the nation's land cover and is updated every 5 years to reflect the changing landscape.
Our EGSC NLCD team collaborates with teams at three other USGS Science Centers to develop, maintain and analyze NLCD data, which describes the nation's land cover and is updated every 5 years to reflect the changing landscape.
The following are provided:
quality assurance and quality control review of products
land cover accuracy assessment and metadata
process analysis and testing
model and technique development
research to improve methodology and end products
NLCD 2001-an updated 50-state U.S. and Puerto Rico database with three thematic layers including land cover, percent imperviousness, and percent tree canopy
NLCD 1992 and 2001 Retrofit Land Cover Change Product-a retrofit land cover change product designed to identify real land cover change between the two eras
NLCD 2006-a conterminous U.S. dataset including updated land cover, land cover change, and percent imperviousness
MRLC Consortium (http://www.epa.gov/mrlc/)
MRLC Home and data access (http://www.mrlc.gov/index.php)
The SLEUTH Model is a cellular-automaton model used to forecast urban growth or plausible scenarios of urban growth based on input images which provide past and present Slope, Land cover, Exclusion, Urbanization, Transportation, and Hillshade. Please visit Project Gigalopolis: Urban and Land Cover Modeling for details and access to source code for various versions of the SLEUTH model. During Fiscal Year 2006, the Eastern Geographic Science Center produced a modified version of SLEUTH for use in modeling regional growth within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This new version incorporates several changes which reduce the computer memory requirements of the SLEUTH model. A change which is necessary for regional modeling because the input images employed for regional modeling are substantially larger than those used in earlier USGS work with SLEUTH. EGSC also modified a number of SLEUTH’s modules to speed up processing during model calibration.
Following up on its 2006 work, EGSC will be working on several enhancements to SLEUTH this year. EGSC expects to:1. Further reduce SLEUTH’s memory requirements,
2. Add additional output statistics and metrics,
3. Adjust some of the modeling algorithms,
` 4. Provide a Web interface to SLEUTH, and
5. Add a suite of new visualizations to SLEUTH in order to allow a broader set of users to see and understand what is going as SLEUTH iterates through scenarios and to visualize the uncertainty in SLEUTH forecasts.
One example of what the SLEUTH model can produce. Shown here, is a predictive animation of urbanization in the Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C., region. The yellow represents urbanization from 1750-1992 and the purple represents urbanization from 1993-2100. This animation was completed using the SLEUTH model in the mid-1990s. To see additional animations, please visit SLEUTH's Online Data Repository (Urban Change Histories and Predictive Urban Modeling at the bottom) Base maps were provided by the following institutions: Johns Hopkins University, Library of Congress, and Maryland Historic Trust.
Loosely couple the Chesapeake Bay Land Cover Model with the Chesapeake Bay Program Watershed Model, SPARROW, and with Groundwater and Habitat Models
The environmental impact of land use and land use change associated with development in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed has become a pressing concern at both local and regional scales. Land use decisions are often made at the local or county level, and affect not only local ecosystems such as area streams but also regional level ecosystems including the Chesapeake Bay estuary. Numerous local and regional stakeholders including county and state governments and the Chesapeake Bay Program are interested in decision support tools to integrate scientific and socioeconomic factors and to better inform land use, environmental mitigation, and targeted remediation and conservation decisions.
This task is focused on the development of Web-based tools to assist local and State decision makers in optimizing strategies for reducing the load of harmful nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) to the Chesapeake Bay. In 2007 this effort established a strategic partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Program to explore merging the modeled output from USGS’s SPARROW model with the Chesapeake Bay Program’s web-based Vortex model. EGSC will utilize SPARROW output to allow users to more easily target areas with high nutrient loads, while utilizing the Vortex software to build scenarios for nutrient management and best management practice strategies. A prototype is expected in the year 2008.
National Land Change Community Modeling System
In the United States the impact of land-change modeling on public policy has - so far - fallen short of its potential. Among the many reasons, two stand out. First, fragmented research has led to a proliferation of models which do not interoperate, largely because of narrow thematic focuses and lack of technical standards. Second, research has disproportionately favored local extents at the expense of regional and national extents. The USGS Geographic Analysis and Monitoring (GAM) Program has, however, specifically recognized the need to improve the effectiveness of ecological, environmental, and land-change modeling at all scales. To this end, Geographic Analysis and Monitoring now funds research to address the neglected regional scale of land-change models and to foster a vibrant, collaborative, national community of modelers.
Our proposed framework for collaboration within this national community is the National Land-Change Community Model (NLCCM). By encouraging the development of software toolkits along with standards for integrating models within and across spatial and temporal scales, the NLCCM will enable modelers:
to pick and choose from among the best features of various existing models;
The NLCCM will be both eclectic and inclusive. Mediated by an interactive Web site, the NLCCM will operate much like open-source software development projects. The community of participating researchers and modelers is expected to span all levels of government, the academic community, and non-governmental organizations. As it matures, the NLCCM is expected to evolve into an integrated mosaic of regional and national models which will serve as a bridge between local-extent models and global models.
To jump-start interest and participation in the NLCCM, the GAM Program is planning a model inter-comparison event (a model "bake-off") to be held in 2009. We will participate in the event by entering the Chesapeake Bay Land-Change Model (CBLCM), consisting of a local-scale growth-allocation model coupled with a regionalized cellular-automata urban-growth model (SLEUTH3-d).
Operation of the Research and Development Computing Cluster (Beowulf)
The Eastern Geographic Science Center (EGSC) Research and Development Computing Cluster (RDCC) includes a Beowulf, a networked cluster of commodity computers (figure below) operated to support computationally intensive models, analyses, and research and development activities. The EGSC RDCC (Beowulf) is intended primarily as a national computational resource for USGS projects in computational and quantitative geography, including those interdisciplinary projects with significant geographic components. The Beowulf meets some of the need for general, professionally administered computational systems which has not otherwise been directly addressed since the de-commissioning several years ago of the Data General™ servers and other UNIX®-based systems once operated by the former National Mapping Division’s research branch.
Visualizing the Spread of West Nile Virus and Five Other Diseases Across the United States
To see how the West Nile Virus (WNV) has and is spreading across the U.S. in five categories (bird, human, mosquito, sentinel, and veterinary), Visit the West Nile Virus - Human - Maps page. The site is updated weekly during the WNV season that typically runs from April to October.
Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Geological Survey shows the data in easy to understand ways:
Web Application Framework Development
Increasingly, decision makers at all levels are challenged not by the lack of information, but by the absence of effective tools to synthesize the large volume of data available and utilize them to frame policy options in a straightforward and understandable manner. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies have been widely applied to this end; however, systems with the necessary analytical power are still largely confined to workstations and are useable only by trained operators. Numerous internet-based systems have been developed, but few offer features beyond simple display of data on map and imagery backgrounds.
Within the USGS, as well as other government agencies and academia, development teams often duplicate each others efforts attempting to develop complex dynamic Web-based GIS applications. Many never see the light of day because of the level-of-effort to deploy such an application. A common reusable application framework would benefit many projects within the USGS and elsewhere and help many of these projects reach completion.