Standardization of Terrestrial and Wetland Habitat Classification and Mapping
The overall goal of this project was to compare maps and classification systems from various producers to identify opportunities for consolidating the strongest qualities in each mapping system in support of a long-term goal of a ‘best map’ for the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S.
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This project was funded by the Northeast Climate Science Center to facilitate coordination among the scientific community to provide a comparison of existing habitat classification and mapping products within the footprint of the Northeast Climate Science Center. This study also provided an evaluation of habitat vulnerability to climate change within the region and recommendations for needed improvement in habitat mapping products for the future.
Investigators compared maps produced by LANDFIRE (LF), Southeast GAP Analysis (SEGAP), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and NatureServe (NS) for the eastern USA. All the efforts use the NS Ecological Systems Classification with modifications as their legend. The LF and NS maps cover the whole U.S., whereas the area of coverage for other maps is limited. The NS map is a compilation and modification of the LF and SEGAP maps. In areas of overlap, the four maps are quite different at their finest thematic resolution (when more vegetation types are mapped) but more similar when fewer vegetation types are mapped. Differences are in part due to the nature of the vegetation continuum itself (e.g. inexact differences separating mapped types). Investigators concluded that it was not possible to determine which map was more accurate, and they could not be mixed and matched to create a ‘best map.’ However, the report provides recommendations for improved ecosystem mapping in the future.
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