Contemporary Conterminous U.S. Land Cover, 1985-2016, using USGS LCMAP Data

Authors: Roger Auch*, United States Geological Survey
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Remote Sensing, United States
Keywords: U.S. land cover change, LCMAP, rate of change, overall spatial change, leading types of change, natural resource cycles, urbanization, surface water dynamics
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 52
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Land cover annual change for the conterminous United States (CONUS) for years 1985 through 2016 was estimated from a probability sample of nearly 25,000 pixels (30 m x 30 m) at which satellite imagery and other ancillary data were intensively interpreted. This work is part of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Land Change Monitoring, Assessment, and Projection (LCMAP) initiative. The percent area of net change between 1985 and 2016 was less than 2% for any of the eight land-cover classes, and that change occurred in less than 12% of the CONUS, with a mean annual gross change of about 0.6%. The leading changes can be grouped into three main types; natural resource cycles, increases in developed and built-up land, and surface water dynamics, with about a 79%,11%, and 6% breakdown respectively. Overall net change masked substantial amounts of gross change that were captured by the annual land cover data, primarily reciprocal changes between tree cover and grass/shrub and between cropland and grass/shrub land covers. A great majority of CONUS land cover remained stable over the study period, with change being locally-to-regionally concentrated. Most CONUS land-cover change involved the three largest classes; Grass/Shrub, Tree Cover, and Cropland, with Grass/Shrub often serving as a short-to-longer term transitionary state. Specific types of change tend to align with general drivers of land change such as socioeconomic “boom” and “bust” years and changes in national policy (e.g. USDA Conservation Reserve Program).

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