It’s Not Easy Being the Green: Quantifying Invasive Species Cover in the Green River Watershed

EarthzineDevelop Summer 2017

This article is a part of the NASA DEVELOP’s Summer 2017 Virtual Poster Session. For more articles like these, click here

Project Team: Colorado River Basin Water Resources
Team LocationUSGS at Colorado State University – Fort Collins, Colorado
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Megan Vahsen
Emily Campbell
Daniel Carver
Julia Sullivan
Chanin Tilakamonkul
Brian Woodward

Dr. Paul Evangelista (Colorado State University)
Dr. Amanda West (Colorado State University)
Nicholas Young (Colorado State University)
Anthony Vorster (Colorado State University)

Past or Other Contributors:
Sarah Carroll
Amandeep Vashisht
Leana Schwartz

The extent of riparian vegetation (black) and probability map of the extent of tamarisk cover (high probability = red, to low probability = dark blue) in the Green River watershed in 2016. Image Credit: Colorado River Basin Water Resources Team

Riparian corridors are inhabited by unique and biodiverse plant communities that control erosion, manage sediment loads, and filter pollutants. These ecosystems are transitional zones between terrestrial and aquatic systems that provide important wildlife habitat and maintain the overall health of rivers. The Colorado River Basin serves as an important ecological system and provides a water supply to more than 40 million people in the western United States. However, the spread of invasive species such as tamarisk (Tamarix spp.) impacts the ecosystem functionality of this river basin by altering flow regimes, sediment loads, and evapotranspiration rates. This project utilized Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) topographic data, Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS), Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+), and Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM) to map and distinguish tamarisk cover from that of riparian species in 2006 and 2016 in the Green River watershed of the Colorado River Basin. Further, for 2016 tamarisk cover maps, we compared Landsat 8 to Sentinel-2 Multispectral Instrument (MSI) in a cross-platform analysis. Invasive species cover maps and an in-depth tutorial will allow partners at the Walton Family Foundation to create effective management plans and reproduce this methodology for future planning.

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