National Land-Cover Data and Census of Agriculture Estimates of Agricultural Land-Use Area Differ in the Northeastern United States
The landscape of the northeastern United States is a complex mixture of forest, agriculture, and development. Many urgent social and environmental issues require spatially-referenced information on land-use, a need potentially met by the National Land-Cover Data (NLCD). NLCD non-site-specific accuracy from 1992 and 2001 was assessed by comparing county proportions of cropland and agricultural grassland (pasture/hay) area to those recorded in the USDA Census of Agriculture (COA) for 1992 and 2002. Estimates of total agricultural area corresponded closely (r2 = 0.91 for 1992; 0.85 for 2001/2), but NLCD performed poorly at distinguishing between cropland and grassland (r2 = 0.64 and 0.80 for cropland in 1992 and 2001; 0.50 and 0.44 for grassland in those years). High forest cover reduced accuracy. Landscape complexity and patch size may impede classification accuracy. Accuracy varied greatly by state, even within a single mapping region. The NLCD is the best available source of spatial land-cover, but may not be suitable for applications requiring agricultural subclass data.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: February 1, 2011
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