Changes in land use and land cover have a number of effects on local ecosystems and beyond. For example, when trees are removed, a major sink of atmospheric carbon dioxide is lost, and shade loss makes the area hotter. Land use changes happen for economic and social reasons. Economic forces can drive landowner desire to use land in a particular way, such as planting a water-intensive cash crop. Because land use change involves many consequences, it is important to study the factors that drive it and the effects that it has on local environments and communities. A recently published book compiles essays investigating these dynamics on islands, where they often become major threats to sustainability amid scarce resources. Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) team geographer Laura Brewington contributed three chapters to the anthology, exploring the patterns and processes of change. In her lead contribution, she uses the island of Maui as a case study to investigate drivers of land use change as it describes the transitions that the island has experienced. Brewington used satellite imagery to visualize the changes, noting that agricultural land cover has decreased while built-up land cover has increased. The NOAA C-CAP (Coastal Change Analysis Program) product proved highly useful for this study due to its high resolution, frequently updated imagery. Brewington’s assessment recommends the NOAA C-CAP product as the best available tool for analyzing spatial change in Hawai’i.
Pacific RISA is one of 11 Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) teams managed by the NOAA Climate Program Office. Led by the East-West Center, Pacific RISA supports resilient and sustainable Pacific communities by using climate information to manage risks and support practical decision-making.