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Open Access National Land-Cover Data and Census of Agriculture Estimates of Agricultural Land-Use Area Differ in the Northeastern United States

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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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  • The official journal of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing - the Imaging and Geospatial Information Society (ASPRS). This highly respected publication covers all facets of photogrammetry and remote sensing methods and technologies.

    Founded in 1934, the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) is a scientific association serving over 7,000 professional members around the world. Our mission is to advance knowledge and improve understanding of mapping sciences to promote the responsible applications of photogrammetry, remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and supporting technologies.
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