Research Themes (click for more information)
Land Use/Land Cover change
Mapping land cover over time in the Central Puget Sound, Washington, USA
Hepinstall-Cymerman, J. M. Alberti, S. Coe. 2009. Using urban landscape trajectories to develop a multi-temporal land cover database to support ecological modeling. Remote Sensing 1:1353-1379.
Hepinstall-Cymerman, J., S. Coe, and L. Hutyra. 2011. Patterns of land cover change in the Central Puget Sound, Washington, 1986-2001. Urban Ecosystems. DOI: 10.1007/s11252-011-0206-3
Many regions of the globe are experiencing rapid urban growth, the location and intensity of which can have negative effects on ecological and social systems. In some locales, planners and policy makers have used urban growth boundaries to direct the location and intensity of development; however the empirical evidence for the efficacy of such policies is mixed. Monitoring the location of urban growth is an essential first step in understanding how the system has changed over time. In addition, if regulations purporting to direct urban growth to specific locales are present, it is important to evaluate if the desired pattern (or change in pattern) has been observed. In this paper, we document land cover and change across six dates (1986, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2002, and 2007) for six counties in the Central Puget Sound, Washington State, USA. We explore patterns of change by three different spatial partitions (the region, each county, 2000 U.S. Census Tracks), and with respect to urban growth boundaries implemented in the late 1990’s as part of the state’s Growth Management Act. Urban land cover increased from 8 to 19% of the study area between 1986 and 2007, while lowland deciduous and mixed forests decreased from 21 to 13% and grass and agriculture decreased from 11 to 8%. Land in urban classes outside of the urban growth boundaries increased more rapidly (by area and percentage of new urban land cover) than land within the urban growth boundaries, suggesting that the intended effect of the Growth Management Act to direct growth to within the urban growth boundaries may not have been accomplished by 2007. Urban sprawl, as estimated by the area of land per capita, increased overall within the region, with the more rural counties within commuting distance to cities having the highest rate of increase observed. Land cover data is increasingly available and can be used to rapidly evaluate urban development patterns over large areas. Such data are important inputs for policy makers, urban planners, and modelers alike to manage and plan for future population, land use, and land cover changes.
Predicting land cover change into the future
Hepinstall, J.A., M. Alberti, J.M. Marzluff. 2008. Predicting land cover change and avian community responses in rapidly urbanizing environments. Landscape Ecology 28:1257-1276.
We used an integrated modeling approach to simulate future land cover and predict the effects of future urban development and land cover on avian diversity in the Central Puget Sound region of Washington State, USA. We parameterized and applied a land cover change model (LCCM) that used output from a microsimulation model of urban development, UrbanSim, and biophysical site and landscape characteristics to simulate land cover 28 years into the future. We used 1991, 1995, and 1999 Landsat TM-derived land cover data and three different spatial partitions of our study area to develop six different estimations of the LCCM. We validated model simulations with 2002 land cover. We combined UrbanSim land use outputs and LCCM simulations to predict changes in avian species richness. Results indicate that landscape composition and configuration were important in explaining land cover change as well as avian species response to landscape change. Over the next 28 years, urban land cover was predicted to increase at the expense of agriculture and deciduous and mixed lowland forests. Land cover changes were predicted to reduce the total number of avian species, with losses primarily in native forest specialists and gains in common synanthropic species such as the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos). The integrated modeling framework we present has potential applications in urban and natural resource planning and management and in assessing of the effects of policies on land development, land cover, and avian biodiversity.
Predicting changes in avian communities and carbon in response to future land use and land cover change
We focus on predicting the effects of future landscape change on avian communities as a case example of models that produce results useful to conservation planning across large landscapes. We have used the Central Puget Sound of western Washington State, USA, a 3200 km2 area undergoing significant urban development and resulting landscape change as a case study area for several studies.
Hepinstall-Cymerman, J., J.M. Marzluff, M. Alberti. 2011. Predicting avian community responses to increasing urbanization. Studies in Avian Biology.
We predicted changes in avian communities that are likely to occur given predicted land cover and land use for 2003, 2015, and 2027 in the Central Puget Sound of western Washington State, USA. The 8,800 km2 study area is undergoing significant urban development and landscape change. We combined a microeconomic development model of human behavior, UrbanSim, with a land cover change model (LCCM) to predict land use and land cover 28 years into the future. We developed regression models of avian species richness and relative abundance derived from seven years of field studies with over 6,000 point count surveys spread across the urban to exurban gradient. We applied the avian models to the predicted land use and land cover to estimate future avian community measures. We found that observed avian diversity was sensitive to both the amount and pattern of land use and land cover. As the transition zone between landscapes dominated by human development and exurban areas is transformed into dense development, we predict that bird communities will become spatially partitioned and dominated by either adaptable, synanthropic species (in dense developments) and early successional species that can tolerate some human development or resilient native forest birds (in the exurban zone). We expect native forest birds to become increasingly reliant on higher elevation forests because most low elevation forests will be converted to development too dense to sustain populations. While these findings are not unexpected, the high spatial resolution of our land use and land cover predictions (landscape pattern metrics can be calculated for 1 km2 “windows”) allowed us to explore how the amount and pattern of future development may influence avian communities. These spatially explicit predictions of future land use, land cover, and avian communities provide an integrated picture of how the landscape might look in 28 years. Additionally, the potential impacts of a proposed policy regulating development location, intensity, or configuration can be modeled to show how it may change land use, how that will likely influence land cover, and how both of these will influence avian communities.
Hepinstall-Cymerman, J. 2011. Ecological modeling in urban environments: predicting changes in biodiversity in response to future urban development. Pp 359-370 in X. Yang, ed. Urban remote sensing: monitoring, synthesis and modeling in the urban environment.
In this chapter, I am specifically interested in understanding how future urbanization may change the biodiversity of a region. To tackle this question, I must be able to: 1) develop models that predict future landscapes; 2) develop models that estimate biodiversity; 3) integrate the output from urban growth models into models estimating biodiversity. None of these steps are trivial on their own, and the integration of multiple models makes this process even more challenging. I will first introduce the major steps required to address this issue and then provide an example drawn from my work in western Washington State, USA.
Hepinstall, J.A., J.M. Marzluff, M. Alberti. 2009. Modeling the responses of birds to predicted changes in land cover in an urbanizing region. Pages 625-659 In J.J. Millspaugh and F.R. Thompson III, eds. Models For Planning Wildlife Conservation In Large Landscapes. Elsevier Science. Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
We present a unified modeling approach to predict urban development, land cover change, and ecosystem response to landscape change. We focus on predicting the effects of future landscape change on avian communities as a case example of models that produce results useful to conservation planning across large landscapes. The Central Puget Sound of western Washington State, USA, is a 3200 km2 area undergoing significant urban development and resulting landscape change. We used a microeconomic development model of human behavior, UrbanSim, to predict land use change. The land cover change model incorporates output from UrbanSim, existing land cover, and biophysical attributes to predict land cover change every four years 28 years into the future. Land cover and land use predictions are input into models of avian species richness and relative abundance developed from five years of field studies across the urban to wildland gradient. Avian diversity was sensitive to both the amount and pattern of land cover. The amount of forest was a key determinant of species richness and abundance of native forest birds. Additionally, aggregation of residential development was important for total species diversity and the diversity of three habitat guilds modeled suggesting that a variety of birds in our region will benefit from aggregating future development. The richness of future bird communities will increase gradually with distance from development. As the transition zone between landscapes dominated by human development and wildland areas is transformed into dense development, the region is likely to be composed of spatially partitioned bird communities dominated by either adaptable, synanthropic species (in dense developments) or resilient native forest birds (in the wildland zone). We expect native forest birds to become increasingly reliant on higher elevation forests because most low elevation forests will be converted to development too dense to support viable populations. With increased development, the location of new development in regards to existing and proposed conservation networks will need to be considered. Conservation and planning agencies can use our models to evaluate proposed policies and conservation strategies.
Hutyra, L., B., B. Yoon, J. Hepinstall-Cymerman, and M. Alberti. 2011. Carbon consequences of land cover change and expansion of urban lands: a case study in the Seattle metropolitan region. Landscape and Urban Planning. 103:83-93.
Understanding the role humans play in modifying ecosystems through changing land cover is central to addressing our current and emerging environmental challenges. In particular, the consequences of urban growth and land cover change on terrestrial carbon budgets is a growing issue for our rapidly urbanizing planet. Using the lowland Seattle Statistical Metropolitan Area (MSA) region as a case study, this paper explores the consequences of the past land cover changes on vegetative carbon stocks with a combination of direct field measurements and a time series of remote sensing data. Between 1986 and 2007, the amount of urban land cover within the lowland Seattle MSA more than doubled, from 1316 km2 to 2798 km2, respectively. Virtually all of the urban expansion was at the expense of forests with the forested area declining from 4472 km2 in 1986 to 2878 km2 in 2007. The annual mean rate of urban land cover expansion was 1 ± 0.6% year−1. We estimate that the impact of these regional land cover changes on aboveground carbon stocks was an average loss of 1.2 Mg C ha−1 yr−1 in vegetative carbon stocks. These carbon losses from urban expansion correspond to nearly 15% of the lowland regional fossil fuel emissions making it an important, albeit typically overlooked, term in regional carbon emissions budgets. As we plan for future urban growth and strive for more ecologically sustainable cities, it is critical that we understand the past patterns and consequences of urban development to inform future land development and conservation strategies.
Effects of land use and land cover history on depressional wetlands in the Dougherty Plain, Georgia
Land use and land cover history of the Dougherty Plain, Georgia, Glenn Martin
Mapping depressional wetlands in Southwestern Georgia, Glenn Martin
Testing a model of depressional wetland mapping in Southwestern Georgia, O. Stribling Stuber
Using predicted species responses to climate change to aid in conservation planning
Lawler, J.L. and Hepinstall-Cymerman, J. 2010. Conservation planning in a changing climate: assessing the impacts of potential range shifts on a reserve network. Pp. 325-348 in S. Trombulak and R. Baldwin, eds. Landscape-scale Conservation Planning. (Peer Reviewed)
Trombulak, S.C., R.F. Baldwin, J.J. Lawler, J. Cymerman-Hepinstall, and M.A. Anderson. In Press. Landscape-scale conservation planning for climate change in the Northern Appalachian/Acadian ecoregion. C.C. Chester, J.A. Hilty and M.S. Cross, eds. Conservation and Climate Disruption: Ecoregional Science and Practice in a Changing Climate. Island Press.
Black-throated Blue Warbler Population Demographics in the Southern Appalachians
Vegetation phenology in Response to Climate Change
Predicting the impacts of hurricanes on forested ecosystems
Merry, K., P. Bettinger and J. Hepinstall. 2009. Physical and biological responses of forests to tropical cyclones affecting the United States Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico Coasts. American Journal of Environmental Sciences 5(1):784-800.
Bettinger, P., K.L. Merry, and J. Hepinstall. 2009. Post-hurricane forest management responses in the southern United States. Journal of Emergency Management. 7(6): 35-50.
Bettinger, P., Merry, K., and J. Hepinstall. 2009. Average tropical cyclone intensity along the Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and north Florida coasts. Southeastern Geographer 49:49-66.
Avian community dynamics in an urbanizing region of Northeastern Georgia, Michael Parrish
Grosse, A. M., J. C. Maerz, J. Hepinstall-Cymerman, and M. E. Dorcas. 2011. Effects of roads and crabbing pressures on Diamondback Terrapin populations in coastal Georgia. Journal of Wildlife Management 75(4):762-770. DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.104
Webb WC, Marzluff JM, & Hepinstall-Cymerman J. 2011. Linking resource use with demography in a synanthropic population of common ravens. Biological Conservation 144(9): 2264-2273.
Kertson, B.N., R.D. Spencer, J.M. Marzluff, J. Hepinstall-Cymerman, C.E. Grue. 2011. Cougar space use and movements in the wildland-urban interface of western Washington. Ecological Applications. doi: 10.1890/11-0947.1