Willem van Leeuwen

About Willem van Leeuwen

Director Arizona Remote Sensing Center
  School of Natural Resources and the Environment 
  School of Geography and Development
Chair Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis Graduate Interdisciplinary Program

ENR2 N410
The University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721

Phone:520 626-0058 Fax:520 621-3816
e-mail: leeuw@email.arizona.edu



Areas of Study

Southwest USA, Mexico, South America, Chile, Spain, Israel, Central Asia, West Africa, World




  • Inspiring the Next Generation Naval Scientists and Engineers in NROTC Battalions Through UG Navy-Relevant Geospatial Experiences (NROTC)
  • Lower Gila River Vegetation Mapping Using Novel LiDAR and Multispectral Data Fusion and Classification Techniques to Inform Riparian Habitat Restoration (BLM)
  • Snow Water with Artificial Neural Network (SWANN) (SRP)
  • Collaborative Research: Slowing the Expansion of Woodlands and Increasing the Resilience of Grasslands in the Southern Great Plains (NSF)
  • Droughtview: Geospatial Tools for Natural Resource Management (NOAA,NASA,WEES, EXtension)
  • Remotely Sensed Vegetation Phenology
  • Climate Data Records (NASA)
  • Dryland Vegetation Dynamics and Landscape Vulnerability to  Drought and Wildfire
  • Assimilation of NASA Science Results and Data into National Decision Support Systems
  • Lidar and Multispectral Mosquito and Owl Habitat Classification
  • Climater impacts on Productivity and  Phenology

Research Interests

The most exciting research projects I am pursuing are multi-disciplinary in nature. My main research interests lie in understanding soil and vegetation ecosystem dynamics and how they respond to climate and human interactions. These interests center on the diverse ecosystems of the Western U.S. My research efforts seek an improved understanding of long term landscape-scale dynamics in forest and rangeland ecosystems, concentrating especially on ecosystem health and sustainability.

In the southwestern United States, drought, wildfire and monsoon rainfall events can have a devastating impact on the sustainable use of natural resources. As such, understanding ecosystems responses to and the effects of wildfire, water erosion and management activities are foci of my research interests. In addition to applying remote sensing and GIS techniques to problems of sustainable land use and land degradation, a long-term goal of mine is to develop new drought and ecosystem monitoring products based on the integration of climate data and remotely sensed land surface temperature and biophysical data.

Current research projects revolve around Decision Support Systems and the integration of remotely sensed products in Geographic Information Systems in order to monitor natural resources, snow and vegetation dynamics, post-wildfire effects, and land degradation through time and across landscapes.

Remote sensing science research interests include canopy and atmospheric radiative tranfer, multispectral time series analysis for better understanding  climate and phenology interactions, lidar and multispectral data fusion for enhanced land cover classifications.

Selected Publications

Petrakis, R., van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., Villarreal, M.L., Tashjian, P., Dello Russo, R., & Scott, C., 2017. Historical Analysis of Riparian Vegetation Change in Response to Shifting Management Objectives on the Middle Rio Grande. Land, 6, 29


El-Vilaly, M.A.S., Didan, K., Marsh, S.E., van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., Crimmins, M.A., & Munoz, A.B. 2017. Vegetation productivity responses to drought on tribal lands in the four corners region of the Southwest USA. Frontiers of Earth Science, pp 1-15. 10.1007/s11707-017-0646-z

Glade, F.E., Miranda, M.D., Meza, F.J., & van Leeuwen, Willem J.D. (2016). Productivity and phenological responses of natural vegetation to present and future inter-annual climate variability across semi-arid river basins in Chile. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 188, 676

Jin Wu, Cecilia Chavana-Bryant, Neill Prohaska, Shawn P. Serbin, Kaiyu Guan, Loren P. Albert, Xi Yang, Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, Anthony John Garnello, Giordane Martins, Yadvinder Malhi, France Gerard, Raimundo Cosme Oliviera, and Scott R. Saleska, 2016 Convergence in relations among leaf traits, spectra and age across diverse canopy environments and two contrasting tropical forests, New Phytologist doi:10.1111/nph.14051.

Xu, C., Zeng, W., Huang, J., Wu, J. and Willem J.D.van Leeuwen, 2016. Prediction of Soil Moisture Content and Soil Salt Concentration from Hyperspectral Laboratory and Field Data. Remote Sensing 8: 42.

Czyzowska-Wisniewski, E. H., Willem J. D. van Leeuwen, K. K. Hirschboeck, S. E. Marsh, and W. T. Wisniewski. 2015. Fractional snow cover estimation in complex alpine-forested environments using an artificial neural network. Remote Sensing of Environment, 156:403-417. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2014.09.026.

Flesch, A. D., Hutto, R. L., van Leeuwen, Willem J. D., Hartfield, K. and Jacobs, S. 2015. Spatial, Temporal, and Density-Dependent Components of Habitat Quality for a Desert Owl. PloS one 10: e0119986.

Romo-Leon, J.R., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, and A. Castellanos-Villegas, Land Use and Environmental Variability Impacts on the Phenology of Arid Agro-Ecosystems. Environmental Management, 2015: p. 1-15.

Shepard, C., M. G. Schaap, M. A. Crimmins, Willem J. D. van Leeuwen, and C. Rasmussen. 2015. Subsurface soil textural control of aboveground productivity in the US Desert Southwest. Geoderma Regional 4:44-54. doi:10.1016/j.geodrs.2014.12.003.

Carrière, Y., B. Degain, K. A.  Hartfield, K. D. Nolte, S. E. Marsh, C. Ellers-Kirk, Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, L. Liesner, P. Dutilleul, and J. C. Palumbo, 2014. Assessing Transmission of Crop Diseases by Insect Vectors in a Landscape Context. Journal of Economic Entomology, Forum, 107:1-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/EC13362.

Romo Leon, J. R., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, A. Catellanos-Villegas, 2014. Using Remote Sensing Tools to Assess Land Use Transitions in Unsustainable Arid Agroecosystems. Journal of Arid Environments, 106:27-35. doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2014.03.002.

Sanchez-Mejia, Z. M., S. A. Papuga, J. B. Swetish, Willem J. D. van Leeuwen, D. Szutu, and K. Hartfield. 2014. Quantifying the influence of deep soil moisture on ecosystem albedo: The role of vegetation. Water Resources Research 50:4038-4053.

van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., Kyle Hartfield, Marcelo Miranda, Francisco J. Meza, 2013. Trends and ENSO/AAO driven variability in NDVI derived productivity and phenology alongside the Andes Mountains. In: Monitoring Global Vegetation with AVHRR NDVI3g Data (1981-2011), Remote Sens., In Press.

Casady, G.M., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, Reed, B.C., 2013. Estimating Winter Annual Biomass in the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts with Satellite- and Ground-Based Observations. Remote Sens., 5, 909-926.

Landau, K.I. MA, Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, 2012. Fine scale spatial urban land cover factors associated with adult mosquito abundance and risk in Tucson, Arizona. Journal of Vector Ecology, 37(2):407-418.

Kariyeva, J. , Willem J. D. van Leeuwen, C. A. Woodhouse, 2012. Impacts of climate gradients on the vegetation phenology of major land use types in Central Asia (1981-2008) Frontiers of Earth Science, 6(2):206-225.

Kariyeva, J. , Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, 2012. Phenological dynamics of irrigated and natural drylands in Central Asia before and after the USSR collapse. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 162, 77-89.

Romo Leon, J. R., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, G. M. Casady, 2012. Using MODIS-NDVI for the Modeling of Post-Wildfire Vegetation Response as a Function of Environmental Conditions and Pre-Fire Restoration Treatments. Remote Sensing. 4(3): 598-621.

Villarreal, M.L., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, Jose Raul Romo-Leon. 2012. Mapping and monitoring riparian vegetation distribution, structure and composition with regression tree models and post-classification change metrics, International Journal of Remote Sensing, 33:13, 4266-4290

Hartfield, K.A., Landau, Katheryn I., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, 2011. Fusion of High Resolution Aerial Multispectral and LiDAR Data: Land Cover in the Context of Urban Mosquito Habitat. Remote Sensing, 3(11): 2364-2383.

van Leeuwen, Willem J.D, Chuck Hutchinson, Sam Drake, Brad Doorn, Verne Kaupp, Tim Haithcoat, Vladislav Likholetov, Ed Sheffner, and Dave Tralli, 2011. Benchmarking enhancements to a decision support system for global crop production, Expert Systems with Applications 38(7): 8054-806.

Kariyeva, Jahan, and Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, 2011. Environmental Drivers of NDVI-based Vegetation Dynamics in Central Asia, Special Issue Remote Sensing in Climate Monitoring and Analysis - Remote Sensing3(2), 203-246.

Davison, J.E., Breshears, D.D., van Leeuwen, W.J.D., & Casady, G.M., 2011. Remotely sensed vegetation phenology and productivity along a climatic gradient: on the value of incorporating the dimension of woody plant cover. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 20, 101–113.

Casady, G.M., Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, S.E. Marsh. 2010. Evaluating post wildfire vegetation dynamics as a response to multiple environmental determinants. Environmental Modeling and Assessment. 15(5): 295-307.

van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., Davison J.E., Casady, G.M., and Marsh S.E., 2010. Phenological Characterization of Desert Sky Island Vegetation Communities with Remotely Sensed and Climate Time Series Data. Remote Sens., 2, 388-415.

van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., G. M. Casady, D. G. Neary, S. Bautista, J. A. Alloza, Y. Carmel, L. Wittenberg, D. Malkinson, B. J. Orr, 2010. Monitoring post-wildfire vegetation response with remotely sensed time-series data in Spain, USA and Israel. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 19: 75-93.

van Leeuwen, Willem J.D., 2009. Chapter 3: Visible, Near-IR & Shortwave IR Spectral Characteristics of Terrestrial Surfaces. In: Handbook of Remote Sensing. Editors: T. Warner, D. Nellis and G. Foody. SAGE. 33-50.

Willem van Leeuwen's picture

Contact Information

Willem van Leeuwen
Professor SGD and SNRE; Director Arizona Remote Sensing Center; Chair Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis GIDP
Telephone: 520 626 0058
Fax: 520-621-3816
Office: ENR2 N410


1995             Ph.D., University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. Major: Soil and Water & Remote Sensing (Dept. of Soil, Water and Environmental Science)

1988             M.S., Wageningen University, University for Life Sciences, Wageningen, The Netherlands. Major Field: Soils and Remote Sensing. Department of Soil Science

1986             B.S., Wageningen University, University for Life Sciences, Wageningen, The Netherlands. Major Field: Soils. Department of Soil Science

Dissertation Title

Biophysical Interpretation of Spectral Indices for Semi-Arid Soil and Vegetation Types in Niger

Courses Taught

Current courses

  1. Geographic Applications of Remote Sensing (GEOG483/583 - Spring)
  2. Remote Sensing for the Study of Planet Earth (REM/OPT/GEOG/RNR/HWR/GEOS 490/590 - Fall).
  3. MS-GIST - Introduction to Remote Sensing (in-person and online)
  4. BS-GIST - Introduction to Remote Sensing (online)

Courses taught

  1. Geographical Field Study of Environmental Geography (GEOG 303 - Spring),
  2. Biogeography (GEOG/ECOL/GEOS 438/538 Fall)
  3. Physical geography seminar e.g.  Coupled human and natural systems, Phenology (GEOG696C)