Western Geographic Science Center


Landscape Monitoring (ILM) Program: Integrating the Human Dimension

We are living in a period of unprecedented environmental change. Determining the impacts of human actions on natural processes and predicting their effects is critical to ensuring a sustainable future for all, both economically and ecologically. Patterns of change observed on the landscape result from both natural processes and policy, regulatory and management decisions of individual Federal, State, county, and private organizations. Monitoring change at the landscape level provides a window to view ecosystem responses that could not be detected at the small site scale. The USGS ILM project harnesses the talents of scientists of from all the USGS disciplines to better understand and respond to ecosystem change in four pilot areas, the Great Basin, Puget Sound, Prairie Potholes, and Mississippi Alluvial Valley.

Map of the U.S showing the four pilot areas.
Ecoregions of the Conterminous U.S. with Integrated Landscape Monitoring pilot sites shown in red.

Landscapes comprise the intersection of the hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere with human communities and needs. Understanding the processes that drive complex factors shaping landscapes requires sophisticated modeling and monitoring. For each pilot area a model of the landscape is developed to understand the key factors affecting the structure and condition of the landscape system and explore what conservation, restoration and remediation activities could be implemented to protect and improve the integrity and function of the landscape. The model will be used to identify monitoring needs and what science is needed to support these efforts

Diagram of Human Systems Model of the Great Basin Ecoregion
Human Systems Model of the Great Basin Ecoregion. The box on the left represents the key biophysical components of the Great Basin: atmospheric system, wet ecosystems, dry ecosystems, and the biota that inhabit the ecoregion. The box on the right represents the human social system and the physically constructed infrastructure such as agriculture, roads, cities, power corridors, irrigation canals, and dams that sustain human communities. The open arrow from the biophysical ecosystem to the human system represents natural capital derived from the Great Basin ecosystem such as minerals, soil fertility, water, water purification, and biomass. The upper open arrow represents anthropomorphic impact on the land and other human activities such as restoration and remediation. The bottom arrow shows humans as part of the biota, self-organizing, co-adapting, and co-evolving just like all the other species on the planet. This system is open; it organizes energy from the sun and matter from the earth in a complex, non-entropic manner

For more information contact: Alicia Torregrosa
Alicia Torregrosa

USGS Scientific Investigations Report:: Conceptual Ecological Models to Guide Integrated Landscape Monitoring of the Great Basin.
Link: http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2010/5133/

USGS Open File Report: Description of Existing Data for Integrated Landscape Monitoring in the Puget Sound Basin, Washington.
Link: http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2008/1308/


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