NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, United States
This proposal will combine remotely sensed data from NASA's Terra Mission (MODIS), AVHRR, and nighttime city lights data from DMSP with geospatial data on ecosystems and species distribution to quantify a variety of anthropogenic threats to ecosystems and biodiversity at regional and continental scales. It will be a joint effort between NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Biospheric Sciences Branch, Stanford University's Center for Conservation Biology, and Bowie State University's Department of Natural Sciences. Humans threaten ecosystems by directly destroying their native habitats and by over-taxing their capacities to sustainably support our increasing population (i.e., their carrying capacities). Rapid, quantitative analyses of the broad-scale patterns of these human threats are critically needed, so that conservation biologists can allocate limited resources most effectively. Data sets just being developed at NASA will greatly aid in these efforts. This project will use remotely sensed data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite to map urban areas and will combine them with census data to index the urban land use patterns to population and housing data. Data from MODIS's Land Discipline Group, AVHRR, and USGS maps, will be used to map vegetation land cover, estimate productivity, and collect land surface disturbance information with a special emphasis on agriculture. These data will be analyzed, validated, and merged in a geographic information system with an ecoregion coverage for North America, including species distribution data for over 20,000 species in eight taxa. The combined geo-spatial analyses will allow us to address three issues of critical importance to the science and policy of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development: (i) identify areas of extreme threat to biodiversity due to anthropogenic habitat loss, (ii) analyze the fragmentation of ecosystems by urban and agricultural land conversion, and (iii) investigate human population and consumption patterns relative to the carrying capacity of the ecosystems that support them. These analyses will result in a series of technical articles in peer-reviewed journals, as well as several map products that will convey the same information powerfully to the public. We plan to focus initially on North America, with the goal of extending the analysis as data sets are expanded to cover the globe.