US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Ecological Modelling 219 (2008) 49-65; doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2008.08.003


A wide variety of ecological applications require spatially explicit current and projected land-use and land-cover data. The southeastern United States has experienced massive land-use change since European settlement and continues to experience extremely high rates of forest cutting, significant urban development, and changes in agricultural land use. Forest-cover patterns and structure are projected to change dramatically in the southeastern United States in the next 50 years due to population growth and demand for wood products [Wear, D.N., Greis, J.G. (Eds.), 2002. Southern Forest Resource Assessment. General Technical Report SRS-53. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Asheville, NC, 635 pp]. Along with our climate partners,we are examining the potential effects of southeastern U.S. land-cover change on regional climate. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Land Cover Trends project is analyzing contemporary (1973–2000) land-cover change in the conterminous United States, providing ecoregion-by-ecoregion estimates of the rates of change, descriptive transition matrices, and changes in landscape metrics. The FORecasting SCEnarios of future land-cover (FORE-SCE) model used Land Cover Trends data and theoretical, statistical, and deterministic modeling techniques to project future land-cover change through 2050 for the southeastern United States. Prescriptions for future proportions of land cover for this application were provided by ecoregion-based extrapolations of historical change. Logistic regression was used to develop relationships between suspected drivers of land-cover change and land cover, resulting in the development of probability-of-occurrence surfaces for each unique land-cover type. Forest stand age was initially established with Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data and tracked through model iterations. The spatial allocation procedure placed patches of new land cover on the landscape until the scenario prescriptions were met, using measured Land Cover Trends data to guide patch characteristics and the probability surfaces to guide placement. The approach provides an efficient method for extrapolating historical land-cover trends and is amenable to the incorporation of more detailed and focused studies for the establishment of scenario prescriptions.