Mississippi Water Resources: Mapping the Extent of Critical and Endangered Watersheds to Assist Restoration Efforts and Conservation Planning Using NASA Earth Observations

Author(s): Castillo, C.

Watersheds in Mississippi provide many environmental and recreational benefits to the citizens and visitors of the state. The Nature Conservancy and the Pascagoula River Audubon Center are currently working to protect coastal Mississippi watersheds, in part through urban coastal preservation initiatives. The primary objective of this project was to aid these conservation efforts by delineating watershed extents for nine coastal streams within the three coastal counties of Jackson, Hancock, and Harrison. As these are small streams (<0.5 miles – 17 miles), most do not have individual watersheds delineated in the Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD). Specifically, three analyses were conducted: watershed delineation of the urban streams, a Land Use Land Cover (LULC) map of the three coastal counties, and a wetland extent map of a subset of that area. The individual watershed delineation was conducted through open source Geographic Information Systems (GIS) platform Quantum Geographic Information System (QGIS) with the Geographic Resources Analysis Support System (GRASS) toolbar. These were then overlaid with watershed sub-basins created in ArcGIS for comparison. Earth Resources Data Analysis Systems (ERDAS) and QGIS were also used to perform a land cover classification. The analysis of wetland areas was performed using a Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) model. Relevant inputs to these analyses included elevation, terrain aspect, thermal data, and vegetation indices. The analyses utilized Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) data, and stream vectors. Our results reveal the distribution of wetlands, forests, and urban areas within these watersheds. Overall, this project illustrated the utility of open data, as well as open-source software. Furthermore, these watershed and wetland maps will aid in the current conservation efforts of endangered streams in southern Mississippi.

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