USGS:  Science for a changing world

National Land-Cover Characteristics Data: Refinement for the Platte River Basin, Nebraska

By R.B. Zelt(1) and J.F. Brown(2)
ABSTRACT: Land cover affects the quality of aquatic ecological resources at a variety of scales--from localized effects of chemical applications on lawns and cropland to regional atmospheric deposition of agricultural pesticides, as examples. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is interested in quantifying the land-cover characteristics of surface-drainage basins being studied as part of its National Water-Quality Assessment Program. Through a collaborative effort between scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and at the USGS EROS Data Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, digital spatial data for land-cover characteristics of the conterminous United States were developed. The data were derived from digital imagery collected on multiple dates throughout the 1990 growing season by a weather-satellite sensor (the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer). Data refinement was made on the basis of other national data sets that included elevation, climate, soils, and ecological regions. Because the labeling of land-cover categories was optimized at the national level, the utility of the data for regional studies potentially could be improved through refinement of the category labels on the basis of localized information.

During the summer of 1993, investigators from UNL and USGS recorded land-cover observations at 210 1-km2 sampling locations in the Platte River Basin (portion below North Platte, Nebr.) to evaluate the corresponding part of the national land-cover characteristics data and to refine it specifically for the 78,000-km2 basin. Sampling locations were selected using a stratified-random procedure that included statistically adequate numbers of samples from six generalized land-cover categories--row crops, mixed crops, grass, grass/crops, woods/crops, and woods/grass. The percentage of each 1-km2 sampling location that was covered by each of 11 specific land-cover categories (5 major crops, grass, woods, emergent vegetation, open water, buildings, and barren) was recorded.


U.S. Geological Survey, 4821 Quail Crest Place, Lawrence, KS 66049.
Conservation and Survey Division, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588. The UNL participation was funded by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant X007526-01.

Zelt, R.B., and Brown, J.F., 1993, National land-cover characteristics data--Refinement for the Platte River Basin, Nebraska [abs.]: Platte River Basin Ecosystem Symposium, Grand Island, Nebr., 1993, Program and Abstracts, p. 6.

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