Impact of Land-Use Change on Vernal Pool Ecosystems in the Ipswich River Watershed: A Spatial Analytical Perspective

EPA Grant Number: U915888
Title: Impact of Land-Use Change on Vernal Pool Ecosystems in the Ipswich River Watershed: A Spatial Analytical Perspective
Investigators: Maguire, Mark S.
Institution: Boston University
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: January 1, 2001 through January 1, 2002
Project Amount: $46,438
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Geography , Academic Fellowships , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


Vernal pools are temporary wetlands that support a rich diversity of vertebrate and invertebrate life. Several amphibian species depend on these fish-free wetlands for breeding purposes, and they typically live in the forested upland surrounding the pools. Documented decline in amphibian numbers on a global scale stresses the need for further identification of vernal pool habitat on a local scale. Urbanization and land-use change threaten connectivity between vernal pools and associated forest habitat. Better understanding of the spatial distribution of vernal pools is critical in guiding the conservation of these resources and the many species they support. The objective of this research project is to investigate the viability of a recently developed state-wide potential vernal pool geographic information system (GIS) database created through the manual delineation of aerial photographs.


A machine-learning (i.e., artificial neural networks) approach using high-resolution remote sensing images is being implemented to address errors of omission and commission in the original dataset, using certified vernal pool locations as training sites. Extensive fieldwork will be conducted to validate potential sites and gather biological evidence of breeding activity by obligate vernal pool species. Using these inputs, the status of vernal pool habitat in Massachusetts will be investigated using species-specific criteria and a variety of GIS techniques. This research incorporates spatial and biological perspectives to identify at-risk vernal pool ecosystems.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, land use, land-use change, vernal pools, vernal pool ecosystems, Ipswich River Watershed, amphibians, geographic information system, GIS, artificial neural networks., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Water & Watershed, Geography, State, Aquatic Ecosystem, Environmental Monitoring, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, remote sensing, wetlands, ecosystem monitoring, amphibians, MA, vernal pool communities, spatial analytical perspective, vernal pools, aquatic ecosystems, GIS, Massachusetts, remotely sensed data, forested watershed, watershed assessment, land use, amphibian population

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final