Communities in the Bayou: Mapping Invasive Species and Human Impacts

Category: Monitoring Wetlands and Mitigating Floods
VPS Project Title: Communities in the Bayou: Mapping Invasive Species and Human Impacts
Project Team: Mississippi Water Resources II

Team Location: Mobile County Health Department (MCHD) – Mobile, Alabama

This map illustrates vulnerability to encroachment by Chinese tallow with red representing areas most susceptible to the spread of this invasive tree species. Image Credit: Mississippi Water Resources II Team

Authors:
Amber Sanderson
Juan Chavarro
Georgina Crepps
Jennifer Rackley

Mentors/Advisors:
Bernard Eichold, MD, DrPH (Mobile County Health Department)
Joe Spruce (NASA Stennis Space Center)
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA DEVELOP National Program)

Past/Other Contributors:
Christopher Castillo
Jacob Deal
Jan Hellmich
George Moore
Kenny Nguyen

Abstract:
Several factors contribute to the degradation of watershed health and ecosystems in coastal Mississippi. Ecological and anthropogenic concerns have been identified by numerous Mississippi public and private environmental agencies as some of the most damaging factors to these ecosystems. This project partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and The Pascagoula River Audubon Center (PRAC) to address community concerns regarding ecological systems and anthropogenic factors detrimental to 10 local watersheds in three Mississippi coastal counties (Jackson, Harrison, and Hancock). To address this need, NASA supported Earth observation data were used to identify areas with potential invasive species infestation, specifically cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) and Chinese tallow (Sapium sebiferum), and anthropogenic impacts within these watersheds. A Land Use/Land Cover map was generated to exhibit various land cover types within the watershed boundaries using ERDAS and ArcGIS software in conjunction with Landsat 8 data. To determine likely regions of species expansion, invasive species suitability maps for these plants were created using a Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) model with Landsat 8 and Terra ASTER data. Field data were collected and used to develop and assess these models. The Integrated Valuation of Environmental Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST) Habitat Risk Assessment (HRA) model was used to analyze and project the impact of anthropogenic effects by estimating present human stressors on environmental health within these watersheds, and to model potential watershed management strategies. By collaborating with project partners and implementing these models and analysis methods, conservation efforts for this region will become more effective in aiding the sustainability of ecosystem and watershed health. We anticipate this project will provide a visual reference of potential areas of invasive species expansion and urban usage and influence within the watershed habitats.

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