Kenai Peninsula Eco Forecasting – NASA DEVELOP Spring 2018 @ GSFC


>>DAWN MAGNESS (USFWS): Our refuge straddles
where two biomes meet which gives us a lot of ecological diversity. We also go from sea level all the way up into
the mountains, and so we have a lot of habitat diversity because of that as well. The other unique thing about alaska is we
have high exposure to climate change, and so northern regions are changing faster than
other parts of the globe.>>KATE HESS (DEVELOP): Over the past 60 years,
mean temperatures in Alaska have increased by an average of 2.9°F. As temperatures rise
on the Kenai Peninsula, wetlands are drying and being invaded by shrubs and trees, increasing
the risk of insect infestations and wildfires. Trees use their height to outcompete shrubs
and grasses for light and to avoid fire and predation. However, being taller leaves them vulnerable
and limits their ability to survive at high elevations because they are more exposed to
the cold temperatures and environmental stressors. But, as temperatures warm, trees are able
to survive further up the mountain. So the evergreen forest spreads, causing habitat
loss for alpine species such as Dall’s sheep.>>DAWN MAGNESS: We are really interested
in having a map of change, so we can understand what places are changing and if there’s different
rates of change across the Kenai Peninsula.>>KATE HESS: U.S Fish and Wildlife ecologists
at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge need to understand what to plan for. The Kenai Ecological Forecasting team produced
maps to locate and measure wetland loss and treeline advance on the Kenai Peninsula from
1985 to 2017. To create these maps, the team used Earth
observation data from Landsat 5, 7, and 8 to classify land cover types across the study
area and detect change over time. This analysis allowed us to estimate the rate
of change which we used to model and forecast potential afforestation through 2050 and 2100. Managers in the Kenai Refuge will use these
maps to include landscape-wide habitat changes in their wildlife management plans.>>DAWN MAGNESS: The DEVELOP project is going
to inspire future research. And so having a sense of how rates of change
vary spatially across the landscape, whether those rates of change might accelerate in
the future, will give us ideas about the types of questions we should be asking and also
where we should be looking for these signals.

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