El Salvador’s Changing Landscape: Getting to the Ground Truth

Category: Mapping Landscape Changes and Species Distribution
Project Team: El Salvador Ecological Forecasting II
Team Location: NASA Langley Research Center – Hampton, Virginia

Results of a random forest classification for the 1996 and 2015 dry seasons; a LULC map with four classes: Water, Rural Non-Forest, Forest, and Urban. Image Credit: El Salvador Ecological Forecasting II Team

Results of a random forest classification for the 1996 and 2015 dry seasons; a LULC map with four classes: Water, Rural Non-Forest, Forest, and Urban. Image Credit: El Salvador Ecological Forecasting II Team

Authors:
Britta Dosch
Garrett Kidd
Labreshia Mims
Rebekke Muench
Jacob Patrick
Amy Wolfe

Mentors/Advisors:
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA Langley Research Center)

Past/Other Contributors:
Emily Adams (Center Lead)
Courtney Duquette
Clarence Kimbrell
Susannah Miller
Jordan Ped
Stephen Zimmerman

Abstract:

Tropical forests are vital ecosystems because of their rich biodiversity and carbon sequestration abilities. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, these forests are threatened by deforestation and forest degradation and are in need of comprehensive management strategies. The conservation of forests is not only vital for biodiversity but also for the ecosystem services they provide. The micro-region of La Mancomunidad La Montañona in Chalatenango, El Salvador, is a hilly area with a population dependent upon subsistence and livestock farming, often utilizing slash and burn agricultural techniques. Using NASA Earth observations in collaboration with El Salvador’s ministry of the environment, Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (MARN), the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Agroforestry for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (ABES) Project, a methodology was developed for stakeholders and policymakers to monitor long-term changes in forest cover and predict significant changes in woody forest biomass. A baseline time series showing forest cover and land use/land cover (LULC) from December 1986 to January 2016 was used to forecast forest cover change through the year 2030. These predictions will allow stakeholders to identify at-risk regions to focus forest conservation efforts and management strategies.

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