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Our New Collaboration with NASA DEVELOP

Blog Post by Hilary Brumberg, Rios Saludables Program Coordinator

Osa Land Cover Maps from 1987 to 2017.

Osa Land Cover Maps from 1987 to 2017.

 

Good news for Osa’s forests and wildlife! Over the past 30 years, the Osa has seen an 11% increase in vegetation and a decrease in grassland.

This year, Osa Conservation started an exciting new partnership with NASA DEVELOP and the University of Georgia (UGA). NASA DEVELOP partners with local organizations to apply NASA Earth observations to address environmental issues around the globe. Through this partnership, we gained insight regarding land use and vegetation changes and threats to watershed health in the Osa between 1987-2017. 

The results from this collaboration indicate policy and conservation efforts over the past few decades have had tangible impacts on Osa’s landscape and wildlife. From 1987-1999, Osa’s forest cover decreased 11%. However, from 1999-2017, forest cover increased 24%, which coincides with the installment of the national Payment for Environmental Services program. 

Nearly all of this new forest was originally palm and grassland.  Of the land covered in palm in 1987, 37% was converted into forests by 2017, and 49% of grassland in 1987 became forest by 2017.  High rates of conversion of grassland to forest also coincide with economic and consumption trends, relating to the fall of the economic value of beef in the 1990s. While natural palm and oil palm plantations are not distinguished in these analyses, we will be further investigating them in upcoming projects to discern trends in oil palm agriculture.

Preliminary Results of the Normalized Difference in the Vegetation Index (NDVI) - NASA-DEVELOP

Preliminary Results of the Normalized Difference in the Vegetation Index (NDVI) – NASA-DEVELOP

 

Time series analysis also indicates that the northern Osa is the most degraded area of the region and has seen the largest land use change. This northern corridor isolates the Osa from mainland Costa Rica, thus reducing ecosystem connectivity and wildlife ability to travel across the country. These maps will help Osa Conservation investigate potential biological corridors in the region, through the Osa Camera Trap Network and our Restoration and Rewilding projects.

Osa Conservation’s programs each tackle a different angle to conserve Osa’s incredible ecosystems and wildlife, which are threatened by deforestation, agricultural pollution, resource extraction, and human settlement. This is no small task and requires many boots on the ground.  Thanks to NASA Earth observations, we now have forest eyes from above, helping us address conservation issues on a larger scale across the Osa.  We can use these results to target and amplify the impact of our conservation efforts in the field, such as our Rios Saludables water quality monitoring, tracking mammal diversity with the Camera Trap Network, and identifying suitable habitat for birds and amphibians.  

I’m looking forward to launching into a second term working with NASA DEVELOP and UGA to highlight the rivers at risk and determine the health of Osa’s mangroves. Stay tuned over the summer to learn what we find out!

Learn more here!

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