EPA Science Inventory

A PROPOSAL FOR A CCMS/NATO PILOT STUDY ON THE USE OF LANDSCAPE SCIENCES IN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

Citation:

Kutz, F. W. AND W. G. Kepner. A PROPOSAL FOR A CCMS/NATO PILOT STUDY ON THE USE OF LANDSCAPE SCIENCES IN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT. Presented at CCMS/NATO pilot study on the use of landscape sciences in environmental assessment, Brussels, Belguim, March 22-23, 2001.

Description:

The United States Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with other Federal and State agencies, has developed through its research programs various landscape science approaches to environmental assessment. These approaches include both landscape characterization (land cover/land use mapping) and ecological (landscape indicator) techniques. These new developments have been made possible through the use of remotely-sensed data from aerial photography and satellite images coupled with sophisticated computer applications. Landscape approaches require a multi-disciplinary perspective and reflect a convergence of geography, ecology and other sciences. Many scientists and environmental managers believe that these landscape approaches will be the "wave of the future" for environmental protection and preservation in the 21 st century.

Landscape metrics or indicators are calculated by combining various scientific databases using technologies from geographic information systems. These metrics facilitate the understanding that events that might occur in one ecosystem or resource can affect the conditions of many other adjacent and distant systems. Some important aspects of environmental change occur at broad spatial scales of whole landscapes, and these cannot always be detected in small-scale studies. For example, the condition of a forest has a direct effect on the condition of streams that flow through the forest. Forests in poor condition because of disease- and insect-induced defoliation and other stresses will export higher nutrient and sediment loads into streams than forests in healthy condition. Additionally, the, shape, size and condition of natural resources have a direct bearing on their intrinsic plant and animal communities which they support and adjacent communities which might be dependent upon them for some part of their development.

Landscape research has progressed to a stage where these approaches can be used to conduct ecological monitoring and assessments on areas of different sizes, particularly very large geographic regions (O'Neill et al. 1997). Examples of the application of this approach are contained in two landscape atlases focused on the mid-Atlantic area of the United States (Riitters et al. 1996 and Jones et al. 1997). Landscape atlases of other geographic areas of the United States have been prepared (Heggem et al. 1999).

The proposal is to establish a working group representative of member Nations and Partners, to exchange information about landscape approaches useful for environmental assessment and to transfer landscape technologies to member Nations for use in environmental protection and preservation programs. This pilot study would be advantageous for NATO members considering the vast experience that they have developed in remote sensing.

Purpose/Objective:

The primary objectives of this research are to:

Develop methodologies so that landscape indicator values generated from different sensors on different dates (but in the same areas) are comparable; differences in metric values result from landscape changes and not differences in the sensors;

Quantify relationships between landscape metrics generated from wall-to-wall spatial data and (1) specific parameters related to water resource conditions in different environmental settings across the US, including but not limited to nutrients, sediment, and benthic communities, and (2) multi-species habitat suitability;

Develop and validate multivariate models based on quantification studies;

Develop GIS/model assessment protocols and tools to characterize risk of nutrient and sediment TMDL exceedence;

Complete an initial draft (potentially web based) of a national landscape condition assessment.

This research directly supports long-term goals established in ORDs multiyear plans related to GPRA Goal 2 (Water) and GPRA Goal 4 (Healthy Communities and Ecosystems), although funding for this task comes from Goal 4. Relative to the GRPA Goal 2 multiyear plan, this research is intended to "provide tools to assess and diagnose impairment in aquatic systems and the sources of associated stressors." Relative to the Goal 4 Multiyear Plan this research is intended to (1) provide states and tribes with an ability to assess the condition of waterbodies in a scientifically defensible and representative way, while allowing for aggregation and assessment of trends at multiple scales, (2) assist Federal, State and Local managers in diagnosing the probable cause and forecasting future conditions in a scientifically defensible manner to protect and restore ecosystems, and (3) provide Federal, State and Local managers with a scientifically defensible way to assess current and future ecological conditions, and probable causes of impairments, and a way to evaluate alternative future management scenarios.

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (PRESENTATION/ABSTRACT)
Start Date: 03/22/2001
Completion Date: 03/22/2001
Record Last Revised: 06/06/2005
Record Created: 09/26/2003
Record Released: 09/26/2003
Record ID: 61038

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL EXPOSURE RESEARCH LAB

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES DIVISION

LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY BRANCH