Many organizations require accurate intermediate-scale land-cover information for many applications, including modeling nutrient and pesticide runoff, understanding spatial patterns of biodiversity, land-use planning, and policy development. While many techniques have been successfully used to classify land cover in relatively small regions, there are substantial obstacles in applying these methods to large, multiscene regions. The purpose of this study was to generate and evaluate a large region land-cover classification product using a multiple-layer land-characteristics database approach. To derive land-cover information, mosaicked Landsat thematic mapper (TM) scenes were analyzed in conjunction with digital elevation data (and derived slope, aspect, and shaded relief), population census information, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program city lights data, prior land-use and land-cover data, digital line graph data, and National Wetlands Inventory data. Both leaf-on and leaf-off TM data sets were analyzed. The study area was U.S. Federal Region III, which includes the states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia. The general procedure involved (1) generating mosaics of multiple scenes of leaves-on TM data using histogram equalization methods; (2) clustering mosaics into 100 spectral classes using unsupervised classification; (3) interpreting and labeling spectral classes into approximately 15 land-cover categories (analogous to Anderson Level 1 and 2 classes) using aerial photographs; (4) developing decision-making rules and models using from one to several ancillary data layers to resolve confusion in spectral classes that represented two or more targeted land-cover categories; and (5) incorporating data from other sources (for example, leaf-off TM data and National Wetlands Inventory data) to yield a final land-cover product. Although standard accuracy assessments were not done, a series of consistency checks using available sources of land-cover information were conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach for generating accurate land-cover information for large regions.
Additional publication details
Regional characterization of land cover using multiple sources of data