Published since 1946
USGS Releases New Land Cover Map
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released in late May its latest National Land Cover Database (NLCD) that documents the change in land cover in the Lower 48 states from 2001 to 2016. During that time, 7.6 percent of the country saw land cover change at least once. The database sorts 30-meter plots of land into 16 land cover types such as deciduous forest, cultivated crops, etc. and for the first time documents shrub, bare ground and grassland areas in the western U.S. The NLCD 2016 update also characterizes proportion of urban imperviousness and tree canopy cover. This is the most comprehensive land cover database ever produced by USGS and can be used by land and resource managers, urban planners, agricultural experts, and other scientists interested in studying land use change.
“By far the greatest change across the U.S. since 2001 has been in forest lands — comprising about half of all land cover change,” said USGS NLCD program manager Collin Homer. “Forest harvest and regrowth in the Southeast, and fire, pests and harvest in the West are the causes. Examples of other changing land cover categories from 2001 to 2016 include shrub loss in the West mostly from fire, cultivated crop expansion into grasslands in the northern prairies, and urban expansion across the U.S.”
The NLCD is led by the USGS, but is constructed by a 10-member Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (MRLC) including Department of the Interior land management agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other federal partners. The MRLC website offers the ability to download the data free of charge and provides a short video explaining how to best make use of the data to map specific areas of interest. Land cover information for Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico will be released at a later date.