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From concept to reality, USGS land change, monitoring, assessment and projection pushes boundaries in service of science

From concept to reality, USGS land change, monitoring, assessment and projection pushes boundaries in service of science

Animation showing change detection for one Landsat pixel, used for land cover and alter products by the USGS Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) Initiative.

What if Loveland and his fellow scientists at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center checked out all the info, as far back in time as possible?

What would it take to make that happen? What might be learned if they pulled it off?

Thanks to the support of EROS leadership and countless hours of diligence and innovation from current and former EROS scientists, partners and collaborators, the world is close to finding out.

The USGS Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) initiative has released its first suite of land cover change and landscape change products, an unmatched record of land cover and alters for us, one that characterizes the dynamics of the landscape across the conterminous us through 33 years of its history.

I’m relieved. It’s been an extended time, said Loveland, the previous EROS Chief Scientist who oversaw the LCMAP initiative until his retirement in 2018. “It’s pretty exciting to ascertain it finally beginning after numerous years of advocacy for the concept, the technical formulation, and ultimately, the implementation. It’s a true testimony to the crew that’s cursed with it all the way through.

Collection 1 Release: ‘Really the Beginning’

For the last two years, EROS Research Geographer Jesslyn Brown has led the crew charged with the task of moving LCMAP from concept to reality.

LCMAP’s five land cover change and five land surface change science products were made possible through a classy change detection algorithm that mines every high-quality Landsat pixel for information, also as by advances in processing power in recent years, high-performance computing resources almost like the EROS-based Denali system, and several technological advances over the past decade.

The technology made it possible, Brown said, but it didn’t make the work easy. The team addressed multiple setbacks, algorithm tweaks, and powered through test runs as they worked to fine-tune the products for accuracy and reliability. The reference dataset wont to validate the merchandise and guide users in best practices itself a product with wide-ranging scientific value took five years of collaborative human labour with the U.S. Forest Service.

The activity of monitoring the Earth’s surface is fraught with challenges, and we’ve tried to affect those challenges, Brown said. there have been times it had been frustrating, but we didn’t stop. I’m incredibly pleased with this team.

The release of LCMAP Collection 1 Science Products, Brown said, represents a start line for an initiative that promises both annual updates a faster clip than users of land cover data are familiar with and therefore the addition of more detail to satisfy user needs as time passes and products are refined.

The Land Change Monitoring, Assessment and Projection (LCMAP) project has generated an integrated suite of annual land cover and land surface change products for us supported statistic data from the Landsat record from 1985–2017. LCMAP Collection 1 Science Products are supported by the USGS implementation of the continual Change Detection and Classification (CCDC) algorithm. For more information, visit the LCMAP Collection 1 Science Products webpage.

In short, the LCMAP team has no intention of resting on its laurels.

Yes, this point series approach is amazing and allows us to ascertain more (change) than we’ve ever been ready to see before,” Brown said. “These products are stunning, but they’re not perfect.

Pete Doucette, head of the Integrated Science and Applications Branch at EROS, told the team during a meeting the week before Collection 1 went get over the EarthExplorer data portal that the achievement is that the beginning of a replacement chapter.

Although the discharge marks an endpoint of several years of labour, it can also be seen as a beginning, Doucette said.

From Comparison to a Deeper Understanding

As Brown and Doucette look to the longer term, so do their colleagues within the science community. Shooting Wu, a physical scientist with the natural resource Mission Area and key collaborator within the LCMAP initiative, said information stretching three decades into the past is momentous.

Even during a rapidly advancing field whose progress is driven by cloud computing resources, ever-expanding pools of knowledge from sources like the ECU Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellites, LCMAP’s meticulous approach, temporal depth, internal control and nationwide coverage stand out.

To be going back to the 1980s, that’s a primary, Wu said. this is often the longest we’ve been ready to return in time watching the land change and land cover. That’s the game-changer.

The value lies not only within the availability of three decades of annual change but in what LCMAP reveals about annually. LCMAP’s land change mapping approach sorts each 30-meter plot of land into a land cover class like developed, wetlands, or grassland for every year, along with side probabilities, and highlights class changes. It’s land surface change products offer even greater insight, providing information like the time of year that change was detected and therefore the magnitude of change even ephemeral or impermanent changes from incidents like tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, or fires.

Moving from land cover mapping to vary detection has broad implications. Tapping into what Wu calls the “gold mine” of the Landsat archive creates a chance for the remote sensing community, land managers and even the overall public to manoeuvre a step beyond simple before-and-after comparisons to a deeper understanding of the character of landscape change.

People have traditionally checked out land cover change forest to agriculture, or agriculture to urban, Wu said. But most of the change is more gradual and conditional. We’ll see drought or an insect outbreak during a forest, but it’s still a forest. It’s just a stressed forest. If we just check out a land cover map, but we don’t know what happened thereto forest throughout the year. With LCMAP and mapping spectral (land surface) change, we get a convergence. It tells us the condition of the land during a way we will tie to other things. it’s implications for fire behaviour, for climate feedback or water resources.

The data have already sparked some interest from the research community. Heidi Sieverding of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology attended an LCMAP workshop in fall 2018 and is currently performing on a paper that aims to assess LCMAP data as a tool to review of the impact of mountain Pine Beetles within the Black Hills. Sieverding and her colleagues have already worked with provisional data, provided through EROS, on various watershed assessment and modelling projects.

It is good to listen to that the merchandise has been fully released, Sieverding said in early June. it’ll be useful in our research which of several of our collaborators.

LCMAP Collection 1 Science Products are available through EarthExplorer, also as through an interactive web viewer that permits users to explore the datasets for his or her area of interest.

Loveland: LCMAP adds to EROS Legacy in Land Change Science

Loveland is happy to ascertain where research teams take the info. More data depth, produced more quickly, has the potential to refine our understanding of the landscape, he said, moving from viewing change as a gentle march to a more nuanced view of change as dynamic and fluid, inclusive of linkages and feedback loops that tie landscape change to changes through climate, public policy, human behaviour, natural disasters and other factors.

I think they need something unprecedented. I’m excited about the potential for this to start out changing our view of land change,” Loveland said. “The ability to start out watching all the processes that are happening is sitting ahead folks now with the datasets.

It’s fitting, Loveland said, that those datasets come from EROS. Advancing the world’s understanding of land change is that the EROS mission. Loveland oversaw LCMAP but has been involved a good range of projects within the run-up thereto. So produce other now-retired scientists who guided LCMAP, including John Dwyer, Alisa Gallant, and Jim Vogelmann.

Loveland also credits former EROS Director Frank Kelly, who stepped up to sell the LCMAP concept to USGS headquarters long before the tools to form it happen were available.

Understanding the role of humans on the landscape was a reasonably bold step by the USGS (through the launch of the primary Landsat), he said. EROS stepped up once we created things like Global Land Cover, the National Land Cover Database, LANDFIRE, Land Cover Trends, and now LCMAP. We at the middle are constantly pushing to innovate as we enter the longer term. which will only be done through reading the tea leaves from the (user) community, advocating for those needs, and having the technical and scientific staff with the talents to form the vision become a reality.

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