The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Land Change Science (LCS) Program
is currently leading an effort commissioned by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO
) to classify and map global ecosystems in a standardized, robust, and practical manner at scales appropriate for on-the-ground management. This work contributes to the development of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), and constitutes one of the Tasks within the ecosystems societal benefit area of GEOSS. This effort will produce standardized geospatial ecosystem models enabling the use of ecosystem occurrences as a robust spatial unit of analysis for assessing climate change effects on ecosystems. Spatial data on ecosystem distributions can be used for a variety of other applications, including conservation planning, resource management, and analyses of the economic value of ecosystem benefits.
This effort pioneers the global mapping of standardized ecosystems using a practical approach that models ecosystem occurrences as unique physical environments that support a particular land cover type. Ecosystems will be geospatially delineated as facets of the landscape generated through biophysical stratification by bioclimate, biogeography, lithology, landforms, surface moisture, and land cover. Ecosystems can be conceptualized and mapped at multiple scales, ranging from biome-level macro scales (for example arctic tundra) down to habitat-level micro scales (for example a peat bog); the GEOSS global ecosystems will be mapped at a mesoscale (tens to thousands of hectares) appropriate for global, regional, national, and local research, management and planning applications.
This website provides additional details about the mapping methodology and also describes three ongoing continental ecosystem mapping efforts: the United States, South America, and Africa. As more progress is made on the development of the global ecosystems map, the new regional information will be added.
The United States ecosystem map, part of the larger global GEOSS effort, also contributes to the new USGS ecosystems science strategy that specifically identifies the development of "national ecosystem maps from a study of the connections between physiographic setting, climate, hydrologic regime, biogeochemistry, ecological processes and biotic interactions" as one of its key goals (USGS, 2007). This strategy recognizes the USGS as the leader of the GEOSS process to classify and subsequently map standardized, global ecosystems (USGS, 2007). Moreover, the USGS ecosystems strategy is also closely linked to the USGS Climate Variability and Change strategy as impacts to ecosystems have been identified as a priority focus of climate change studies.
The USGS Geosciences and Environmental Change (GEC) Science Center
is currently responsible for the technical implementation of this effort, including specific mapping activities for both the conterminous United States and Africa; and implementation of a web-based ecosystem data dissemination system.