Rise of the Trees: Assessing Woody Vegetation Encroachment on Catahoula Lake

Earthzine2015 Spring VPS, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session, Responding to Natural Disasters and Environmental Changes

Category: Responding to Natural Disasters and Environmental Changes

Project Team: Louisiana Ecological Forecasting

Team Location: NASA John C. Stennis Space Center ‰ÛÒ Hancock County, Mississippi

A classification from 2014 that was used to calculate woody vegetation expansion from 2004 to 2014 and to predict future woody vegetation expansion. Image Credit: Louisiana Ecological Forecasting Team


Heather Nicholson

Noah Haines

Eric Mack

Brennan McDaniel


Joseph Spruce (NASA Stennis Space Center)

James ‰ÛÏDoc‰Û Smoot (NASA Stennis Space Center)


A project with Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife and Ducks Unlimited, Inc was performed using satellite and aerial remote sensing data to map woody vegetation encroachment around Catahoula Lake, located in east-central Louisiana. This area is a known, highly important location within the Mississippi Flyway where each year waterfowl winter by the tens of thousands. Catahoula Lake occupies approximately 30,000 acres; 20,000 acres make up the lake, while the surrounding 10,000 acres are predominantly hardwood trees. Today, much of the historic lake area is being overrun by encroaching woody vegetation such as willow, swamp privet, and water elm. These woody species have no benefit to waterfowl and shade out the beneficial, moist-soil wetland plants that naturally grow at Catahoula Lake. This has led to a drastic reduction in the amount of available forage for waterfowl and makes Catahoula Lake a less-attractive wintering location for most waterfowl species. In the past, partner organizations have mapped woody vegetation density and created a vegetation classification for the year 2004, and mapped woody vegetation rates of change from 1987 to 2003 in the Catahoula Lake area. The goal of this DEVELOP project was to follow similar methodologies to update the maps. Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) and National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) imagery were used to map woody vegetation density and extent in the year 2014. Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM) and Landsat 8 OLI imagery were used to compute woody vegetation rates of change for 2004 to 2014. The rates of change were then used to predict future habitat expansion. A field survey was conducted to help develop and validate needed habitat mapping products. End products helped aid partner organizations make better informed decisions by having current information on woody vegetation extent and predicted change.

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