The Western Geographic Science Center (WGSC) helps decision makers understand how people and the environment interact through geographic research on environmental and societal impacts from natural hazards and climate change. Our projects analyze human and environmental interactions over space and time. We work with many partners and link numerous natural and social science disciplines. WGSC staff are located across the USGS Pacific, Southwest, and Northwest regions, with our research topics ranging in scale from global food security to nationwide land cover change to community-level hazard analyses. Our research methods utilize the latest in remote sensing and GIS software to analyze a variety of spatial data such as Landsat satellite imagery, U.S. Census Bureau demographic data, LiDAR elevation data, and various data collected from local sensors built by our team.
A growing number of wildfire-burned areas throughout the western United States are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.
As a number of previous peer-reviewed studies have shown, the area burned annually by wildfires has increased in recent decades and is expected to continue to increase this century. Many growing cities and towns rely on water from rivers and reservoirs that originates in watersheds where wildfire and sedimentation are projected to increase. Increased sedimentation could negatively impact water supply and quality for some communities.
Photo: Ash and sedimentation saturating a stream in Las Conchas, New Mexico. (Photo credit: USDA Forest Service)