Team Location: NASA Langley Research Center
Authors: Robert Bradley, Lauren Ermatinger, Richard Hillyer, Candace Law, Uma Balakumar, Brian Whitlow, Travis Moore
Advisors/Science Mentors: Dr. Kenton Ross, Jamie Favors
Abstract: Forest fragmentation due to agriculture, urbanization, road construction, and other types of human development divides forests into unsustainable habitats. Specifically, this project investigates the impact of urbanization on forest landscape structure in the Baltimore-Washington area. Forest fragmentation puts many interior species in danger as they become more sensitive to predation, habitat invasion, and changes in food web dynamics. Consequently, decreasing species richness and the creation of physical barriers directly affect biodiversity by reducing genetic variability in these isolated populations. As an example, nest parasitism by birds such as the brown-headed cowbird is increased as a result of fragmentation. Brown-headed cowbirds parasitize other birds by laying their own eggs in the nests of smaller bird species. As forests are fragmented, the perimeter increases, allowing easier access to interior-dwelling species. In addition, the destruction of forests resulting from urbanization can also have important socio-economic impacts. For example, non-consumptive recreational bird watching contributes about $18 billion per year in recreational revenue in the U.S. Forest fragmentation also can lead to increases in wildlife interactions with humans, causing the spread of disease, physical injury, and property damage. This can result in other monetary losses through damage repair and increased healthcare expenses. This project investigates the specific impacts of forest fragmentation using remotely sensed habitat data and in-situ bird population counts collected through citizen science. Both multispectral and hyperspectral images from satellites such as MODIS, Landsat, and Hyperion are used to map forest fragmentation. Using GIS, the measurements of habitat areas and perimeters can be compared with population data. Ultimately, the project will assist in quantifying the impact of forest fragmentation by offering a competent methodology that can be utilized at any location. The methodologies used could assist in the determination of preserving and improving forest interior habitats by identifying key areas of concern.
Video transcript available here.