When people think of NASA, they usually think of space exploration. But NASA also explores our home planet, and the results of that exploration help other agencies provide substantial benefits to our society and economy. An example of NASA’s Earth research leading to new benefits is in the area of the control of non-native plants such as the plants that may be reducing water supplies in the western United States.
NASA makes its earth observations, modeling and computational capabilities available to enhance the tools other agencies use to control invasive plant species. An "invasive species" is non-native (alien) to the ecosystem in which it’s found. Often, invasive species cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Invasive species can be plants, animals, and other organisms (e.g., microbes). Human actions are the primary means of invasive species introductions.
Invasive plant species traditionally are located, identified and monitored by manual ground surveys. Such surveys are effective, but expensive, timely and difficult to manage over large areas. Now, a new tool developed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is taking advantage of observations from NASA satellites and NASA systems engineering to provide a service for land managers that predicts quickly and inexpensively the location and spread of invasive plants over regional areas. The tool, called the Invasive Species Forecasting System (ISFS) was recently used to make the first predictive map of tamarisk habitat in the United States.
Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
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