Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 415–428

Regional Land Cover Characterization Using Landsat Thematic Mapper Data and Ancillary Data Sources


  • J.E. Vogelmann
    • Hughes-STX Corporation, USGSEROS Data Center
  • T.L. Sohl
    • Hughes-STX Corporation, USGSEROS Data Center
  • P.V. Campbell
    • MRLC, U.S. EPA, MD-75A
  • D.M. Shaw
    • Landscape Characterization, U.S. EPA, MD-75A

DOI: 10.1023/A:1005996900217

Cite this article as:
Vogelmann, J., Sohl, T., Campbell, P. et al. Environ Monit Assess (1998) 51: 415. doi:10.1023/A:1005996900217


As part of the activities of the Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics (MRLC) Interagency Consortium, an intermediate-scale land cover data set is being generated for the conterminous United States. This effort is being conducted on a region-by-region basis using U.S. Standard Federal Regions. To date, land cover data sets have been generated for Federal Regions 3 (Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware) and 2 (New York and New Jersey). Classification work is currently under way in Federal Region 4 (the southeastern United States), and land cover mapping activities have been started in Federal Regions 5 (the Great Lakes region) and 1 (New England). It is anticipated that a land cover data set for the conterminous United States will be completed by the end of 1999. A standard land cover classification legend is used, which is analogous to and compatible with other classification schemes. The primary MRLC regional classification scheme contains 23 land cover classes.

The primary source of data for the project is the Landsat thematic mapper (TM) sensor. For each region, TM scenes representing both leaf-on and leaf-off conditions are acquired, preprocessed, and georeferenced to MRLC specifications. Mosaicked data are clustered using unsupervised classification, and individual clusters are labeled using aerial photographs. Individual clusters that represent more than one land cover unit are split using spatial modeling with multiple ancillary spatial data layers (most notably, digital elevation model, population, land use and land cover, and wetlands information). This approach yields regional land cover information suitable for a wide array of applications, including landscape metric analyses, land management, land cover change studies, and nutrient and pesticide runoff modeling.

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998