Lighthouse on Lake Huron. (Credit: Public Domain)
It’s not always straightforward to link land and water use. But an interactive tool developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service makes this connection a little easier for the Great Lakes region.
Available online, the tool takes users on a captivating, visual journey through the basin while explaining numerous aspects of the relationship that land has with water. It starts with the fact that water always flows to the lowest point, then proceeds through using high-resolution images and maps to convey numerous research projects.
These are all significant in some way for explaining how the dynamics of land and water use act in the Great Lakes region. But the tool doesn’t just rely on text from research papers to hit points home. Alongside a few paragraphs of text, there are live-motion graphics and images that bring the science to life.
One of the coolest features of the interactive tool is a satellite map that shows land and water use dynamics throughout the Great Lakes basin from 1984 through 2012. It is amazing to zoom in on towns big and small to see how their layouts have shifted. For some, it’s easy to see that urban sprawl has become an issue, while others have contracted in size.
From there, the USDA site moves on to the ever-challenging issue of harmful algal blooms. They clearly pose a threat to water quality in the Great Lakes basin, but how does land use impact their occurrence?
The tool also takes a look at forests around the Great Lakes, breaking it down into percentages based on who manages them. The figures cover forests that are privately owned, overseen by industry or managed by government agencies. But a corresponding map shows the forest cover in shades of green, orange, red and yellow.
Another dynamic of land and water use that the tool covers is water quality modeling, in addition to what forest canopy changes in the future could bring.
Top image: Lighthouse on Lake Huron. (Credit: Public Domain)