Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Earth and Ocean Sciences

First Advisor

Venkat Lakshmi


In the recent past, the Mesopotamia region has been rich in all forms of biological diversity, characterized by a fertile living environment and natural habitats full of rare birds, wild animals, aquatic animals, and diverse plants. Its natural abundance and geographical location have allowed it to be break or transit point for millions of migratory birds from Russia to South Africa. It is a breeding ground for many species of Persian Gulf fish. Despite all this historical, environmental and economic richness, they have been neglected as a result of the combination of a number of human and climatic factors, which in 16 years (1988-2003) has modified them to a land where vegetation, water, and biodiversity have been clearly reduced. This is a great environmental loss, not only for West Asia but for the whole world. This dissertation explores the changes in the vegetation coverage and water bodies in the Mesopotamian marshes, Iraq over more than three decades (36 years) using different sources of satellite remote sensing datasets.

Firstly, we utilized Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from the Land Long Term Data Record (LTDR) Version 5 which has a 0.05o x 0.05o in spatial resolution and daily temporal repeat to monitor the fluctuations of vegetation together with hydrological variables such precipitation, surface temperature, and evapotranspiration. In this research, we studied the impact of climate change and anthropogenic activities on vegetation and water coverage changes. Secondly, we compared Normalized Difference Vegetation Index from various satellite sensors - Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Advanced Very High-Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), and Landsat over the Mesopotamian marshlands for 17 years. We selected this time series (2002-2018) to monitor the changes in vegetation area. The time series (2002-2018) is considered as a period of rehabilitation for the Mesopotamian marshes. Thirdly, as a result of human factors and local and regional climate changes, the marshes and Iraq are in general vulnerable to face a large number of dust storms annually. According to local sources (Iraq news) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the time period from June 29 to July 8, 2009, is considered the longest dust storm period in Iraq during last decade. In this research, we utilized the Moderate Resolution Imagining Spectroradiometer, surface reflectance daily data to calculate the Normalized Difference Dust Index. Additionally, brightness temperature data from Aqua thermal band 31 were used to separate sand on the ground from atmospheric dust. The main reasons for the degradation of the Mesopotamian marshes were due to anthropogenic activities. In the comparison research, we found that the NDVI derived from MODIS, AVHRR and Landsat sensors are correlated with high precision. This paper investigates the utility of combining low spatial resolution with frequent temporal repeat and long-term coverage and a high spatial resolution with infrequent temporal repeat and similar long-term coverage. This study also proves that we can use the low-resolution Advance Very High- resolution Radiometer data for studies on land cover change.