Landscape- and ecoregion-based conservation efforts increasingly use a spatial component to organize data for analysis and interpretation. A challenge particular to remotely sensed cover maps generated from these efforts is how best to assess the accuracy of the cover maps, especially when they can exceed 1000 s/km2 in size. Here we develop and describe a methodological approach for assessing the accuracy of large-area cover maps, using as a test case the 21.9 million ha cover map developed for Utah Gap Analysis. As part of our design process, we first reviewed the effect of intracluster correlation and a simple cost function on the relative efficiency of cluster sample designs to simple random designs. Our design ultimately combined clustered and subsampled field data stratified by ecological modeling unit and accessibility (hereafter a mixed design). We next outline estimation formulas for simple map accuracy measures under our mixed design and report results for eight major cover types and the three ecoregions mapped as part of the Utah Gap Analysis. Overall accuracy of the map was 83.2% (SE=1.4). Within ecoregions, accuracy ranged from 78.9% to 85.0%. Accuracy by cover type varied, ranging from a low of 50.4% for barren to a high of 90.6% for man modified. In addition, we examined gains in efficiency of our mixed design compared with a simple random sample approach. In regard to precision, our mixed design was more precise than a simple random design, given fixed sample costs. We close with a discussion of the logistical constraints facing attempts to assess the accuracy of large-area, remotely sensed cover maps.
Additional publication details
Assessing map accuracy in a remotely sensed, ecoregion-scale cover map