As part of the US Geological Survey's Land Cover Trends project, land-use/land-cover change estimates between 1973 and 2000 are presented for the basin and range ecoregions, including Northern, Central, Mojave, and Sonoran. Landsat data were employed to estimate and characterize land-cover change from 1973, 1980, 1986, 1992, and 2000 using a post-classification comparison. Overall, spatial change was 2.5% (17,830 km2). Change increased steadily between 1973 and 1986 but decreased slightly between 1992 and 2000. The grassland/shrubland class, frequently used for livestock grazing, constituted the majority of the study area and had a net decrease from an estimated 83.8% (587,024 km2) in 1973 to 82.6% (578,242 km2) in 2000. The most common land-use/land-cover conversions across the basin and range ecoregions were indicative of the changes associated with natural, nonmechanical disturbances (i.e., fire), and grassland/shrubland loss to development, agriculture, and mining. This comprehensive look at contemporary land-use/land-cover change provides critical insight into how the deserts of the United States have changed and can be used to inform adaptive management practices of public lands.
Additional publication details
Late twentieth century land-cover change in the basin and range ecoregions of the United States