USGS - science for a changing world

Landcover Modeling

Acquiring Land-cover Modeling Data from USGS / EROS Center

The USGS EROS Center has used the FORE-SCE modeling framework to produce land use and land cover (LULC) data for both historical time periods and for future scenarios. These data enable researchers to explain the historical impacts of LULC change on ecological processes, as well as explore potential future impacts. Our goal has been to provide consistent, regional-to-national scale data at relatively high spatial and thematic resolutions. The following provides a short synopsis of current and recently completely projects, and where applicable, links to download data. Work continues on these and other projects. Additional project information and data will be made available as our research progresses. Please contact project personnel for any questions regarding the project below, or for queries about data access.

National Assessment of Ecosystem Carbon and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes :: The goal of this project is to assess the potential storage and emissions of carbon and greenhouse gases in biological systems across the United States. Changes in land use and land cover (LULC) influence biogeochemical cycles and carbon and greenhouse gas fluxes. Historic LULC change from 1992 to 2005 was mapped and modeled for the conterminous United States, using historical data sources when possible. LULC change was modeled for three IPCC-SRES Scenarios (A1b, A2, B1) from 2006-2050 for the conterminous United States. These data were used to assess carbon and greenhouse gas fluxes and emissions. Extended LULC data were also produced but not used for the greenhouse gas assessments, including projections for the IPCC SRES B2 scenario, and extended model runs to 2100. Go to the main project home page for more information on the project.

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Land-use and Land-cover Backcasting :: Historical land-use and land-cover data allow researchers to study past relationships between landscape change and ecological processes. However, consistent land-cover maps for historical dates are typically not available, especially at broad regional- to national-scales. Annual, historical land-cover maps are being modeled from 1938 to 1992, based on best available tabular and statistical data, including data from the Agriculture Census, Population Census, USGS Land Cover Trends, and other sources. The data are thematically and spatially consistent with the land-cover projections produced as part of the National Assessesment of Ecosystem Carbon and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes project. The combined data from the two projects thus provides consistent, annual land-cover maps from 1938 to 2100 for completed areas. We have completed backcasting for the conterminous United States and the data are available for download.

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Data Characteristics

  • Geographic Coverage - Conterminous of the United States
  • Spatial Resolution - 250 meter pixel
  • Thematic Resolution - 17 land-use and land-cover classes
  • Temporal Resolution - Annual raster maps from 1938 through 1992

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Bird Species Modeling in the Conterminous United States :: Species distribution models often use climate change information to assess potential changes in bird species range in the future, but rarely use projected land use information. Projected land use data created by USGS EROS scientists now makes it possible to assess potential impacts of future land-use change on bird species distributions. We used projected land use data, projected climate data, and information on current bird species' distributions to model the relative impacts of land use and climate on both current and future distributions. Results for 50 modeled species indicate that both climate and land-use change may strongly impact bird species distributions in the conterminous United States by 2075. Current and future species distribution maps for all 50 species, as well as all project data, may be accessed here.

USGS Northern Glaciated Plains Ecoregion - Parcel-based modeling of land use under a biofuels scenario - 2012 to 2030 :: Land-use and land-cover (LULC) models most often use a pixel (raster) based representation of the landscape. However, LULC change occurs at a local level, within individual ownership and management units (parcels). Given the aggregate impacts of local-scale LULC change on broader-scale ecosystem services, LULC models are needed that provide 1) broad regional coverage, 2) high thematic detail, 3) high-quality representation of landscape pattern using ownership-based parcels, and 4) responsiveness to expected changes in climate. These modeling needs were addressed by modeling a study region in the Northern Glaciated Plains ecoregion of the Great Plains of the United States, using a modified version of the Forecasting Scenarios of land-use change (FORE-SCE) model. A scenario from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Billion Ton Update was modeled at high-thematic and spatial resolution from 2012 to 2030, using parcel-level data from the USDA to represent contiguous ownership and management units. The modeled scenario portrays a strong increase in demand for the cultivation of perennial grasses, a crop to be used as a cellulosic biofuel feedstock under the Billion Ton Update scenarios. The scenario also depicts an overall decline in the area of cultivated cropland in the region, and modest increases in urban area. Model results show strong agreement both quantitatively and spatially with the original data from the Billion Ton Update scenario, but this approach downscales coarse, county-level data to high-resolution parcel-based maps. The use of true ownership and management parcels enabled an improved representation of landscape pattern over other raster-based modeling frameworks, with highly detailed agricultural land-use mapping across a very broad geographic region. The conceptual approach is practical and scalable, facilitating the potential production of high-resolution, parcel-based land-use modeling for much broader geographic regions than have traditionally been attempted with parcel-based modeling.

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Data Characteristics

  • Geographic Coverage - Conterminous of the United States
  • Spatial Resolution - 30 meter pixel
  • Thematic Resolution - 22 land-use and land-cover classes
  • Temporal Resolution - Annual raster maps from 2012 through 2030

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High Plains Groundwater Availability :: Land cover and agricultural crop type projections for two IPCC-SRES scenarios (A2 & B2) were forecast from 2008-2050 for the High Plains/Ogallala aquifer region to support a groundwater use and availability study of the northern High Plains aquifer. Historical backcasting was also conducted from 2008-1949 based on tabular data from USDA Cropland Data Layer (CDL), National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD), Agriculture Census, USGS Land Cover Trends, and other data sets. Regional and temporal shifts in land cover effects the spatial distribution and temporal changes in evapotranspiration and water use, influencing groundwater recharge and depletion rates. This proposed assessment of past water use and future availability will provide local water managers with tools and information to make better-informed water management decisions.

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Contact project personnel for more information about the High Plains Groundwater Availability project and data availability

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Page Last Modified: April 28, 2016