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$1.8 million NASA grant helps parks prepare for climate and land use change

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By Melynda Harrison, MSU News Service

A team of researchers led by a Montana State University ecologist
are launching a four-year project to provide land managers in the country’s
federally managed lands with better information for dealing with climate and
land use changes.

The $1.8 million NASA-funded project uses NASA remote-sensing data to help
design management plans for public lands. According to MSU ecology professor
Andrew Hansen, his team will use NASA satellite data to simulate how the
ecosystems of two Landscape Conservation Cooperatives will change under
forecasted climate and land use changes.

The 21 LCCs, designated by the Department of the Interior, collectively form
a national network of land, water, wildlife, and cultural resource managers,
scientists, and interested public and private organizations-within the U.S.
and across international borders-that share a common need for scientific
information and interest in conservation.These lands include National
Parks, National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands.

“It’s a big challenge because the LCCs are trying to figure out how to
manage under future climate change,” Hansen said. “It’s also a big challenge
because they are trying to figure out how to manage across different
governmental agencies.”

Hansen and his colleagues will look at past ecological trends and predicted
future trends and assess the vulnerability of ecosystems and certain species
to climate and land use change. The team will evaluate management options
for the more vulnerable ecosystems and species within two LCCs. Then they
will use the information to help the LCCs design management approaches for
the vulnerable ecosystems and species.

The project will focus on portions of the Great Northern and Appalachian
LCCs, both of which support critical biological resources and have already
undergone climatic warming.The Great Northern LCC encompasses the Northern
Rockies and Columbia Basin and the Appalachian LCC covers most of the
Appalachian Range.

Hansen will be working with Scott Goetz from Woods Hole Research Center,
Forrest Melton from California State University, Monterey Bay / NASA Ames,
Bill Monahan from the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring
Program, Ramakrishna Nemani from NASA Ames Research Center, Tom Olliff from
NPS I&M and the Greater Yellowstone Network, and David Theobald from
Colorado State University.

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