Forest Service Researchers Map Seasonal Greening in U.S. Forests, Fields, and Urban Areas

Using the assessment tool ForWarn, U.S. Forest Service researchers can monitor the growth and development of vegetation that signals winter’s end and the awakening of a new growing season. Now these researchers have devised a way to more precisely characterize the beginning of seasonal greening, or “greenup,” and compare its timing with that of the 14 previous years. Such information helps land managers anticipate and plan for the impacts of disturbances such as weather events and insect pests.

Three maps detailing greenup in forests and grasslands, agricultural lands, and urban areas are now available online via ForWarn, which delivers weekly Land Surface Phenology (LSP) maps of seasonal vegetation growth and development detected by satellites, as well as national maps showing vegetation disturbances.

“In contrast to field observations that track leaf emergence for particular species of trees or herbaceous plants, ForWarn‘s LSP maps capture the response of the mixture of vegetation that can be seen from space,” explains William Hargrove, research ecologist from the Forest Service’s Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center.

The researchers used nationwide satellite imagery collected between 2000 and 2013 to quantify the seasonal progression from dormancy to peak greenness using a common scale from 0 to 100 percent.

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