Importance of Natural Resources

Nevada & Oregon Ecological Forecasting – NASA DEVELOP Spring 2019 @ CO

Medusahead, it looks harmless but don’t
be fooled, this is actually a destructive invasive species. The spread of species outside of their native
range has become more common with an increase in global travel and trade, resulting in the
introduction of plants like medusahead which can crowd out native species and encroach
on open lands. In fact, invasive species cost
the United States over 120 billion dollars per year in damages and other associated costs. Our NASA DEVELOP team partnered up with the
United States Geological Survey and the National Park Service to help them identify areas
that are most at risk to invasive species in Nevada and Oregon. The USGS and NPS are responsible for managing
invasive species that threaten the environment and the economy. They use habitat distribution models as a
tool to predict vulnerable locations so they know where to focus when restoring native
ecosystems and preventing invasive species outbreaks. Our partners identified regions with low vegetation
and exposed bare ground to be at higher risk of invasion. This is because medusahead and many other
invasive species are good at spreading to places where there are few plants already
growing. However the USGS and NPS are not using the
most detailed resolution available for this bare ground variable. Our team utilized NASA Earth observations
to enhance the precision of the ground cover data included in their habitat distribution
models. To do this, we derived multiple bare ground
measurements using satellites like Landsat 8, Sentinel 1, and MODIS to determine the
best one to include in the USGS and NPS models for habitat suitability purposes. With more accurate habitat suitability maps
our partners can better identify regions that are most at risk of invasion by harmful invasive
species, like medusahead. This will save our partners both time and
money as they implement prevention and mitigation strategies, and work to conserve the integrity
of our valuable native ecosystems.

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