Little progress has been made in the study of the effects of Land Cover and Land Use Change (LCLUC) on regional-scale wetland distribution, extent and function. Fundamental data are few. For example, many US wetland maps are out of date and do not represent wetland dynamics forested wetland maps are inaccurate principle process-based regional water quality models do not explicitly incorporate wetlands and wetland functional assessments are not quantitative. Thus, a fundamental understanding of land-water processes is severely impeded and adaptive management and conservation of wetlands is based on scant fundamental understanding.
The overall objectives of this study are to (1) develop improved wetland mapping and change detection using remote-sensing data from multiple, complementary sensors at various temporal and spatial scales (2) study the socioeconomic and physical drivers of wetland change affecting wetland extent and function at regional scales (3) assess the impacts of multiple environmental stressors, particularly the anthropogenic ones and (4) quantify vulnerability of wetlands and wetland ecosystem services under multiple climate and land use change scenarios. Outputs of this project will advance scientific understanding of the types, extent and processes of LCLUC and climate change on wetland extent, distribution, and provision of ecosystem services. It should also advance the US obligations to the scientific component of the RAMSAR Treaty as well as state and local management strategies to mitigate and adapt to future changes.
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed (CBW) will be used for this study because of its wide variation in soils, topography, climate, hydrology, water chemistry, vegetation, and other factors, including human disturbance and wetland related policies. While typical, LCLUC in the CBW is extreme and it is a bellwether of the effects of accelerating LCLUC and climate change on the entire US Atlantic coast and elsewhere. The CBW extends over 165,759 km2, covering parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Due to its shallowness, estuarine wetlands are extensive around the CB, although inland palustrine wetlands are even more abundant. The high land to water surface ratio (14:1) amplifies the influence of land activities. Like many wetlands covering large areas they provide multiple ecosystem services, including regulation of water quality, biodiversity, habitat, food for humans, erosion protection, and others. A high proportion of the overall human population lives in coastal areas around the CB as in most areas of the world, and this is increasing rapidly, leading to accelerated LCLUC. The importance of the CB is recognized by its designation as an Inter-governmental Treaty RAMSAR site of international importance.
Multiple types of remote sensing data will be used with existing biophysical and socio-economic data, new field data, and outputs of land simulation and water quality models. New mapping approaches based on the fusion of passive and active remotely sensed data and weather records will be developed. Socio-economic, policy, regulatory, and economic variables, in addition to biophysical will be considered. The extensive existing pollutant loading data for the CBW provide an unusual opportunity for model closure. The derived relationships and quantitative assessment will be spatially explicit, thus allowing for “what if” conceptual experiments to investigate alternative land uses and their effects on wetlands.
This proposal is in direct response to the LCLUC call for proposals addressing Vulnerability, Impacts, and Adaptation (VIA) (second component). It also responds to the first component of the call by synthesizing LCLUC research results from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Earth Science Applications Center (RESAC), available climate impact and vulnerability assessments, and existing wetland studies.