Major changes in Forest and woodland vegetation cover in Santa Clara County

A new study published in the journal "Current Urban Studies" by NASA Ames scientist Christopher Potter has documented major changes in forest and woodland vegetation cover in Santa Clara County (SCC) over the past decade of urban development. Since the 1980s, the Santa Clara Valley has been rapidly transformed into “Silicon Valley”, a major global center of high-tech development and the Internet boom of the 1990s. Until now, have been no region-wide studies to document the impact of this development on natural habitats.

The continued development of upland forests and woodlands in SCC can have important impacts on wildlife habitats throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.  Wildlife species at risk from woodland loss in SCC include bobcats, mountain lions, kit fox, badgers, golden eagles, wintering bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, California tiger salamanders, red-legged frogs, and steelhead trout.

Landsat analysis results revealed that 22,730 acres of forests and woodlands were highly disturbed in SCC between 1999 and 2009.  This represented about 6 percent of the total area of all remaining forest and woodlands in SCC prior to 1999.  Nearly 40 percent of forest and woodland areas detected as highly disturbed in SCC were lost to recent residential or commercial development activities.

Using this type of Landsat analysis methodology, Ames scientists are capable of fulfilling a pressing need for consistent, continual, low-cost monitoring of changes in forest habitats and associated wildlife corridors throughout California.

Areas of disturbed forest and woodland cover in Santa Clara County.