U.S. Department of the InteriorDOI News Header
Office of the Secretary
January 31, 2007
Shane Wolfe, DOI, 202-208-6416
Karen Wood, DOI, USGS, 703-648-4447
Ghyslain Charron, NRC, 613-992-4447
Kathleen Olson, NRC, 613-996-2007

U.S.-Canadian Science Pact to Improve Monitoring of Land Cover, Biodiversity, Climate Change

WASHINGTON – The Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey and Natural Resources Canada have launched a high-tech satellite mapping initiative that can better monitor changes in the combined land cover of two of the world’s largest nations.
Using infrared, radar relief and other remote sensing techniques, the partnership will produce integrated information that will help natural resource managers to better assess the health of landscapes, cross border wildland fire risks, changes in biodiversity and the effects of climate change on permafrost. This improved data will enable managers to develop more effective land management policies.

“Natural processes like wildland fires do not stop at the border, so this type of information is critical for identifying land-cover trends,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. “This new international partnership will build on the expertise of both the U.S. and Canadian science agencies and lead to a more comprehensive and standardized monitoring of North America’s land cover.”

“This agreement reflects a lengthy history of joint research and mutual collaboration between our two countries,” said the Honourable Gary Lunn, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources. “Working together, this partnership will allow us to share information and maximize our scientific knowledge so that we can better monitor the changes of our land, including the permafrost areas in the North.”

Land cover is the product of both natural processes and human influences. Land cover information is essential for a wide variety of issues such as: assessing ecosystem status and health; understanding spatial patterns of biodiversity; land use planning; and developing land management policy. Human modification of land cover has important implications for environmental quality, as well as natural resource availability, quality and use.

The agreement involves a dynamic land-cover monitoring system for all of North America and the development of permafrost modeling applications. There are also future projects planned for longer-term collaboration on the development of radar applications.

The land-cover mapping initiative will be useful to both countries, for the tri-national (including Mexico) Commission for Environmental Cooperation, as well as for international initiatives jointly undertaken by members of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). One of many examples of how unified North American land-cover mapping may be used is in monitoring wildfire risk across national borders.

Collaborative efforts in the development of permafrost applications will focus first on the mapping of the Yukon River Basin. A key application in joint permafrost mapping will be assessing the impacts of climate change on human settlements, physical infrastructure, and ecosystems in both countries.

The USGS serves the United States by providing reliable scientific information and Earth observations to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) plays a pivotal role in helping shape the important contributions of the natural resources sector to the Canadian economy, society and environment.

NRCan’s news releases and backgrounders are available at www.nrcan.gc.ca/media.

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