Land Change Science


The surface of the earth is a patchwork mosaic of natural and cultural landscapes. Each of these patches is part of a very diverse and interconnected spectrum of landscapes ranging from relatively pristine natural ecosystems to completely human-dominated urban and industrial areas. The mosaic is not static, but regularly shifts due to changes resulting from natural phenomena and human activities. In an effort to better understand these changes and their associated impacts a new field of study has emerged called Land Change Science.

The Land Change Science (LCS) Program strives to understand the Nation's most pressing environmental, natural resource, and economic challenges by providing the information and tools necessary and identifying possible solutions. LCS scientists conduct research on land cover, which provides a historical record of land change; and develop decision support tools supporting knowledgeable resource allocation decisions.   Learn more...

Science Topics

Land Change Monitoring and Modeling

The LCS Program studies the environmental consequences of land change and its impacts on people, environment, economy, and resources. Land cover information is critical for identifying and assessing climatic changes since surface energy fluxes between the land and the atmosphere have a major impact on climate. LCS staff also maintain the National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD).

Ecosystems and Their Benefits

LCS scientists model ecosystems and analyze the services they provide, including carbon sequestration, water availability, and biodiversity conservation. Ecosystems are the source of goods (food, water, fuel, etc.) and services (flood control, water provision, etc.) critical for human survival. LCS researchers also lead global ecosystems mapping efforts, and a major national assessment called LandCarbon.

Assessing Societal Vulnerability to Natural Hazards

LCS researchers seek to improve the scientific basis for vulnerability and risk assessments, as well as disaster mitigation, response, and recovery. Scientific information is crucial when local and State governments need to evaluate a community's vulnerability to both catastrophic hazards (tsunami, earthquakes, and volcanoes) and chronic hazards (coastal erosion and sea level rise).