Where Have all the Junipers Come From?

EarthzineDEVELOP 2016 Spring VPS, Original, Responding to Human Health Risks

Category: Responding to Human Health Risks
Project Team: Southeast Idaho Disasters II
Team Location: BLM at Idaho State University GIS TReC – Pocatello, Idaho

The Southeast Idaho Disasters II team characterized juniper encroachment over the last 30 years in southeast Idaho and assessed changes in soil moisture. Image Credit: Southeast Idaho Disasters II Team

The Southeast Idaho Disasters II team characterized juniper encroachment over the last 30 years in southeast Idaho and assessed changes in soil moisture. Image Credit: Southeast Idaho Disasters II Team


Authors:
Jenna Williams
Kshitiz Shrestha
Cody O’Dale
Ryan Howerton

Mentors/Advisors:
Keith Weber (GIS Training and Research Center at Idaho State University)
John Schnase (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
Mark Carroll (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Past/Other Contributors:
Jenna Williams (Center Lead)
Zachary Simpson
Sara Ramos

Abstract:

The expansion of juniper from their original rocky terrain into herbaceous communities alters fire regimes and increases fire severity not only in Idaho but throughout the Great Basin and Intermountain West. As the range of juniper expands, they begin to co-dominate communities resulting in the die-off of shrubs, grasses, and forbs. Wildfires, coupled with the presence of invasive plant species like cheatgrass, are primary drivers of change in semi-arid savanna ecosystems. By comparing soil moisture changes in cheatgrass dominated sites with sagebrush dominated sites, this project provided maps and graphs that will aid project partners in understanding why vegetation is departing from its native habitat and help with vegetation conservation efforts. This project looked at the historical changes in juniper distribution from 1985 to 2015. Imagery from Landsat 5 and 8 was gathered in five-year increments during August, and combined different topographic and climatic data to characterize juniper expansion. The maps produced provide land managers with the most current information on juniper encroachment and support decision-making regarding the management of junipers.

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