Observing Forest Change to Enhance Border Sustainability in Chihuahua, Mexico



The US–Mexico border is a place of great social and economic contrasts. Environmental systems straddle the border without regard for social or economic differences, and degradation is rarely confined to a single side of the border. Of major concern to the border region is the quantity and quality of water resources in the Rio Grande and its tributaries. The forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental in Chihuahua State are the source of much of this water and are an ideal place to study the impact of distant border influences, and this article examines remote sensing applications of Chihuahua's forest resources. Efforts to map Mexico's land-cover are reviewed, and specific examples relating to Chihuahua are provided. Forest fire analysis at the national level is discussed, and opportunities for applying remotely sensed data and analysis to Chihuahua are identified. These include (i) long-term monitoring of Chihuahua's forests; (ii) the estimation of biophysical forest parameters; and (iii) assessment of pre-fire, active fire, and post-fire forest characteristics and burn severity. Remote sensing of Chihuahua's forests will facilitate studies of downstream water quantity and quality and point to management practices that will create a sustainable border environment.