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Landsat MSS-derived land-cover map of northern Alaska: extrapolation methods and a comparison with photo-interpreted and AVHRR-derived maps

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Vegetation maps of Arctic areas are needed for a variety of tundra ecosystem and climate change studies and for extrapolating from relatively small, well-known sites to broader regions. We made a preliminary land-cover map of northern Alaska by extrapolating a Landsat Multi-Spectral Scanner (MSS) derived classification of the Kuparuk River Region (KRR) to all of northern Alaska. We used a 26-scene mosaic that was previously made by the EROS Data Center, and a K-means unsupervised classification algorithm to produce eight broad land-cover categories. The northern Alaska-MSS map (NA-MSS) has the following land-cover categories and respective percentage coverage within the 200000km2 Arctic Slope: Dry Prostrate-shrub Tundra and Barrens, 8%; Moist Graminoid, Prostrate-shrub Tundra, 22%; Moist Tussock-graminoid, Dwarf-shrub Tundra, 4%; Moist Dwarf-shrub, Tussock-graminoid, Tundra, 28%; Moist Lowshrub Tundra and other Shrublands, 19%; Wet Graminoid Tundra, 9%; Water, 6%; Clouds and ice, <1%; Shadows, 4%. Ancillary data were used to improve the classification for a region of sandy tundra not encountered in the KRR and to separate shadows in the mountains from water and wetlands elsewhere. The NA-MSS map helps to define the distribution of a recently described moist nonacidic (calcareous) tundra and areas of shrublands that are of broad interest to the tundra- and climate-change modelling communities. A boundary separating moist acidic tundra from moist nonacidic tundra stretches across all of northern Alaska (about 850km). Shrub-dominated tundra is prevalent in the southern and western (warmer, wetter) portions of the map. We created difference maps for comparing the northern Alaska-MSS (NA-MSS) map to the Major Ecosystems of Alaska (MEA) map and a map derived from a time series of Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer images (NA-AVHRR). Compared to the other maps, the NA-MSS map provides more detailed information for moist tundra areas and shows more shrub-dominated vegetation with different spatial distributions than the other two maps. An accuracy assessment of the map will be performed in 1999.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 15, 1999

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