Mapping Climate Change-Caused Landscape Disturbance

Changes in landscape are natural, uncontrolled occurrences that sometimes leave unwelcome results. Landscape disturbances prominent in the Northern Rockies include fire, forest insects and pathogens like the pine beetle, avalanches, floods and landslides.

This project aims to develop a Geographic Information Systems’ (GIS) spatial database to map and quantify landscape disturbances connected to climate change effects across the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park for the period from 1999 through 2016, a period of climate extremes and related ecological stress across the Crown of the Continent ecosystem.

Remote sensing technology (Landsat satellite imagery) will be applied to identify large and subtle disturbances across the Peace Park landscape, changes which may have consequences for aquatic species like stoneflies and bull trout, and terrestrial species like pika.

This project enlists the capable field services of two local high school science programs in Whitefish and Columbia Falls to provide eyes “on the ground” data to researchers at the University of Idaho, who will interpret and classify satellite image data. Once completed, the updated vegetation map for Waterton-Glacier and GIS data describing detectable landscape disturbances attributed to climate change for the period of 1999 to the present — will greatly benefit existing resource management programs, as well as future research and educational outreach.


Posted on

July 18, 2016