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Extramural Research

Grantee Research Project Results

Grantee Research Project Results

Developing Satellite Imagery-Based Forest Disturbance Metrics to Improve Predictions of Nutrient and Sediment Loads to the Chesapeake Bay

EPA Grant Number: FP917449
Title: Developing Satellite Imagery-Based Forest Disturbance Metrics to Improve Predictions of Nutrient and Sediment Loads to the Chesapeake Bay
Investigators: Deel, Lindsay N
Institution: West Virginia University
EPA Project Officer: Just, Theodore J.
Project Period: August 1, 2012 through July 31, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012)
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Geography



How do different disturbances differ spectrally across the landscape, and how can these differences be used to create discrete forest disturbance categories to be incorporated in the CBP Watershed Model?


The study uses NASA’s MODIS imagery to create maps of disturbance in forests of the CBW. These maps will include information on the type and intensity of disturbance within forested areas. Using these data, the relationship between forest disturbance and streamwater nutrient and sediment export will be assessed.

Expected Results:

It is expected that there will be a strong relationship between forest disturbance level and nutrient and sediment load on an annual basis at the river-segment scale. The newly created forest categories will add depth and detail to the Watershed Model and will refine the estimates of nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur that are used to create total maximum daily loads for the entire Chesapeake Bay.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

These results will contribute to the overall goals of the Chesapeake Agreements (1987 and 2000) with regard to reducing nutrient pollution in the Bay by refining estimates of the origins and loads of nutrients from forested land-use types in the CBW. Therefore, the study has the potential to impact issues and policies surrounding water quality across an area that more than 16 million people call home. Policy changes that may result from a model refinement such as this are likely to have environmental and economic impacts reaching throughout the entire CBW. These include improved water quality affecting beneficial uses of many water bodies (such as provision of drinking water, fishing, swimming and ecosystem services related to aquatic habitats), and more directed regulatory actions designed to reduce nutrient and sediment additions from their sources.

Supplemental Keywords:

forest disturbance, Chesapeake Bay, geographic information systems (GIS)

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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