National Land Cover Data

Overview

This data maps the current distribution of natural forests, shrublands, grasslands, and wetlands, along with major land use and land cover types (e.g. agriculture and urban areas) using the US National Vegetation Classification. The map was developed by combining regional land cover maps from the USGS Gap Analysis Program (GAP) and inter-agency LANDFIRE efforts, with further review and refinements by NatureServe ecologists.

Data Layer Description

Source

NatureServe, Landfire, and the USGS GAP Analysis Program

What this data layer represents

The seamless NLCD contains 21 categories of land cover information suitable for a variety of State and regional applications, including landscape analysis, land management, and modeling nutrient and pesticide runoff.

Location

Continental United States

Scale: 30-meter resolution raster, but intended for use at regional and sub-regional scales.

Description

This data maps the current distribution of natural forests, shrublands, grasslands, and wetlands, along with major land use and land cover types (e.g. agriculture and urban areas) using the US National Vegetation Classification. At the finest level of thematic resolution, the data depicts Ecological Systems, recurring groups of biological communities that are found in similar physical environments and are influenced by similar dynamic ecological processes, such as fire or flooding. They are intended to provide a classification unit that is readily able to be mapped, often from remote imagery, and readily identifiable by conservation and resource managers in the field.

The data was generated by combining regional land cover maps from the USGS Gap Analysis Program (GAP) and inter-agency LANDFIRE efforts, with further review and refinements by NatureServe ecologists. GAP aims to produce a consistent national map to depict wildlife habitat, enabling assessment of habitat representativeness (and “gaps” thereof) within and among managed lands (“gap analysis”). LANDFIRE has similar needs for classification and map products, but uses these depictions to evaluate the degree to which natural wildfire regimes may have been altered through past land use decisions. NatureServe aims to produce internationally consistent map products to support all forms of biodiversity conservation.

Given limitations of current GAP products (incomplete nationally) and LANDFIRE products (incomplete for some ecological types without natural fire regimes), NatureServe provided additional technical support for their integration into a national composite. NatureServe then attributed all 500+ natural ecological classes from the national composite map into the US NVC concepts. Imagery used in map production was taken between 2001 and 2003, so changes in land cover that have occurred since that time period will not appear on this map.

The data is provided as a 30-meter resolution grid, with each pixel classified as a unique ecological system type; however, the map is intended for use for regional planning and should not be interpreted at the pixel level. Data attributes enable display of habitat types at different thematic scales, including US-NVC Divisions, Subclasses, Classes, Formations, and Macrogroups, as well as classes used in the National Land Cover Data Set, and upland versus wetland vegetation.

How to get the data layer

Contact NatureServe.

How you might make use of this data layer

Natural pattern in vegetation provides a foundation for depicting ecological diversity, in terms of location, type, condition, and trend in natural habitats. This map can be applied to many forms of conservation decision making where a current and detailed maps of natural habitats. These include, but are not limited to:

- Exploration of regional biodiversity patterns
- Improved communication about habitats across state and other jurisdictional boundaries
- Identification of habitats likely to be found within a specific project area
- Regional assessments of the extent and condition of particular habitat types
- Regional assessments of ecological service provision
- Prioritization of habitat conservation activities
- Selection of candidate areas for monitoring, assessment, or habitat restoration projects

How to get more information

Access and use constraints

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Credits

NatureServe 2013, based on source data Landfire, and the USGS GAP Analysis Program

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