Chesapeake Bay Land Cover and Land Use Monitoring

This project seeks to develop new methodologies to determine land use and land cover utilizing local GIS data. If we can prove to the EPA that locally generated land use data is economical and more accurate thnn the satellite data they currently use this may generate a large cash flow to local governments to develop GIS data.

Funding Agency: EPA
Project Dates: 9/24/01 - 9/23/03
Primary Researchers: Ray Crew, Stewart Bruce, Hanxing Pu, Lalania Garner-Winter

Penn State has been funded by the EPA to utilize various methodologies to generate land use mapping within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. These methodologies involve interpretation of land use by referencing local GIS data such as digital tax parcels, building point data, road centerlines, wetlands data, state parks, state forests, and aerial photography.

In order to produce these land use maps, features are delineated on a map and then given a land use code. The land use codes fall under a general and specific classification. The general categories in which these specific codes are categorized include urban and developed land, agriculture, rangeland, forest, water, wetlands, and barren lands. Within each of those general categories, a more specific code is also given. Examples of specific land use codes for urban and developed land include residential, commercial, industrial, transportation/communication, utilities, religious, municipal services, and recreation.

These land use maps will then be compared to other products such as satellite-derived land use mapping. One of the goals of the project is to determine differences and similarities in accuracy and time of production for various types of land use mapping.

Staff at both Penn State University Park Campus and the Susquehanna County Cooperative Extension Office located in Montrose, PA have been involved in this project. As of December 2003, land use mapping has been produced for Sullivan County, PA, Clearfield County, PA, Henrico County, VA, and Tioga County, NY.

The Process

Aerial of School

Example of aerial photo interpretation. School is seen from air in the aerial photograph. The ground photo depicts the same school. The practice of locating on the ground what is seen from the air is known as field verification.

This house is visible from the aerial photograph and is categorized as a "Single Family Residence". Utilizing local GIS data, such as parcel information and aerial photographs, enables residences in rural locations to be identified and classified correctly. Satellite derived land use products will often miss such detail and categorize this entire area as forest.