Monitoring Land Reclamation in Southwest Virginia

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

Results from MaxENT model for Woodthrush species showing habitat suitability in  Southwest Virginia.

Results from MaxENT model for Woodthrush species showing habitat suitability in Southwest Virginia.

Zachary Tate, Project Lead (The University of Virginia’s College at Wise)
Talia Elliott (The University of Virginia’s College at Wise)
Patrick Hafashimana (Oklahoma Christian University)
Ryan Porter (The University of Virginia)
Rajkishan Rajappan (University of Florida)

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

Past/Other Contributors:
Dieudonne Dusenge (Oklahoma Christian University)
Sarah Medley (The University of Virginia’s College at Wise)
Julie Spangler (The University of Virginia’s College at Wise)
Pedro Rodriguez (Mountain Empire Community College)

The majority of the population in southwest Virginia depends economically on coal mining. In 2011, coal mining generated $2,000,000 in tax revenue to Wise County alone. However, surface mining completely removes land cover and leaves the land exposed to erosion. The destruction of the forest cover directly impacts local species, as some are displaced 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. This project’s goal was to monitor the progress of land reclamation and the effect this effect has had on the return of local species. By incorporating NASA Earth observations, such as Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM), the re-vegetation process in reclaimed mine lands 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 integrate 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 Modeling (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 Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), the MaxENT model produced a statistical analysis on the probability of species habitat. The results from this project provide policy makers with ecological information that can be used to identify suitable habitats for local species in reclaimed mined areas.

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