The SLEUTH urban growth model is applied to a binational dryland watershed to envision and evaluate plausible future scenarios of land use change into the year 2050. Our objective was to create a suite of geospatial footprints portraying potential land use change that can be used to aid binational decision-makers in assessing the impacts relative to sustainability of natural resources and potential socio-ecological consequences of proposed land-use management. Three alternatives are designed to simulate different conditions: (i) a Current Trends Scenario of unmanaged exponential growth, (ii) a Conservation Scenario with managed growth to protect the environment, and (iii) a Megalopolis Scenario in which growth is accentuated around a defined international trade corridor. The model was calibrated with historical data extracted from a time series of satellite images. Model materials, methodology, and results are presented. Our Current Trends Scenario predicts the footprint of urban growth to approximately triple from 2009 to 2050, which is corroborated by local population estimates. The Conservation Scenario results in protecting 46% more of the Evergreen class (more than 150,000 acres) than the Current Trends Scenario and approximately 95,000 acres of Barren Land, Crops, Deciduous Forest (Mesquite Bosque), Grassland/Herbaceous, Urban/Recreational Grasses, and Wetlands classes combined. The Megalopolis Scenario results also depict the preservation of some of these land-use classes compared to the Current Trends Scenario, most notably in the environmentally important headwaters region. Connectivity and areal extent of land cover types that provide wildlife habitat were preserved under the alternative scenarios when compared to Current Trends.
Additional publication details
Developing spatially explicit footprints of plausible land-use scenarios in the Santa Cruz Watershed, Arizona and Sonora