Monitoring Land Reclamation in Southwest Virginia Coalfield Counties

Project Team: Virginia Ecological Forecasting Team
Team Location: Wise County Clerk of Court’s Office, Wise, Virginia


This figure shows the difference in Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) brought by land reclamation.

This figure shows the difference in Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) brought by land reclamation.



Authors:
Dieudonne Dusenge (Oklahoma Christian University)
Sarah Medley (The University of Virginia’s College at Wise)
Pedro Juan Rodríguez Rivera (Mountain Empire Community College)
Julie Spangler (The University of Virginia’s College at Wise)
Rohini Swaminathan (Purdue University)


Mentors/Advisors:
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA DEVELOP National Science Advisor)
Robert VanGundy (The University of Virginia’s College at Wise


Abstract:


The majority of the population in southwest Virginia directly depends on coal mining. In 2011, coal mining generated $2,000,000 in tax revenue in Wise County alone. However, surface mining completely removes land cover and leaves the land exposed to erosion. The destruction of the forest cover also directly impacts local species, as some are forced to leave and others perish in the mining process. Even though surface mining has a negative impact on the environment, land reclamation efforts are in place to either restore mined areas to their natural vegetated state or to transform these areas for economic purposes. The goal of this study was to monitor the progress of land reclamation and the effect this process has had on the return of local species. By incorporating NASA Earth observations including Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM), the re-vegetation process in reclaimed mines was estimated.  This project also utilized the Spatial and Temporal Adaptive Reflectance Fusion Model (STAR-FM) to derive a series of ecological succession maps that integrated the high-frequency temporal information from Terra/Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and high-resolution spatial information from Landsat. In addition, the Maximum Entropy Modelling (MaxENT) eco-niche model was used to estimate the adaptation of animal species to the newly formed habitats. By combining factors such as land type, precipitation from Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), and slope from National Elevation Dataset (NED), the MaxENT model produced a statistical analysis map showing the probability of species habitat. The results from this project can provide policymakers with ecological information to identify suitable habitats for local species in reclaimed mined areas.


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