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The USGS Land Cover Institute (LCI)


NLCD 92 Land Cover Class Definitions

The classification system used for NLCD 92 is modified from the Anderson land-use and land-cover classification system. Many of the Anderson classes, especially the Level III classes, are best derived using aerial photography. It is not appropriate to attempt to derive some of these classes using Landsat TM data due to issues of spatial resolution and interpretability of data. Thus, no attempt was made to derive classes that were extremely difficult or "impractical" to obtain using Landsat TM data, such as the Level III urban classes. In addition, some Anderson Level II classes were consolidated into a single 92 NLCD class.

    11 Open Water
    12 Perennial Ice/Snow

    21 Low Intensity Residential
    22 High Intensity Residential
    23 Commercial/Industrial/Transportation
    31 Bare Rock/Sand/Clay
    32 Quarries/Strip Mines/Gravel Pits
    33 Transitional
Forested Upland
    41 Deciduous Forest
    42 Evergreen Forest
    43 Mixed Forest
    51 Shrubland
Non-Natural Woody
    61 Orchards/Vineyards/Other

Herbaceous Upland Natural/Semi-natural Vegetation
    71 Grasslands/Herbaceous

Herbaceous Planted/Cultivated
    81 Pasture/Hay
    82 Row Crops
    83 Small Grains
    84 Fallow
    85 Urban/Recreational Grasses
    91 Woody Wetlands
    92 Emergent Herbaceous Wetlands

NLCD 92 Land Cover Class Definitions

Water - All areas of open water or permanent ice/snow cover.

11. Open Water - all areas of open water, generally with less than 25% cover of vegetation/land cover.
12. Perennial Ice/Snow - all areas characterized by year-long surface cover of ice and/or snow.

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Developed Areas characterized by a high percentage (30 percent or greater) of constructed materials (e.g. asphalt, concrete, buildings, etc).

21. Low Intensity Residential - Includes areas with a mixture of constructed materials and vegetation. Constructed materials account for 30-80 percent of the cover. Vegetation may account for 20 to 70 percent of the cover. These areas most commonly include single-family housing units. Population densities will be lower than in high intensity residential areas.
22. High Intensity Residential - Includes highly developed areas where people reside in high numbers. Examples include apartment complexes and row houses. Vegetation accounts for less than 20 percent of the cover. Constructed materials account for 80 to100 percent of the cover.
23. Commercial/Industrial/Transportation - Includes infrastructure (e.g. roads, railroads, etc.) and all highly developed areas not classified as High Intensity Residential.

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Barren - Areas characterized by bare rock, gravel, sand, silt, clay, or other earthen material, with little or no "green" vegetation present regardless of its inherent ability to support life. Vegetation, if present, is more widely spaced and scrubby than that in the "green" vegetated categories; lichen cover may be extensive.

31. Bare Rock/Sand/Clay - Perennially barren areas of bedrock, desert pavement, scarps, talus, slides, volcanic material, glacial debris, beaches, and other accumulations of earthen material.
32. Quarries/Strip Mines/Gravel Pits - Areas of extractive mining activities with significant surface expression.
33. Transitional - Areas of sparse vegetative cover (less than 25 percent of cover) that are dynamically changing from one land cover to another, often because of land use activities. Examples include forest clearcuts, a transition phase between forest and agricultural land, the temporary clearing of vegetation, and changes due to natural causes (e.g. fire, flood, etc.).

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Forested Upland - Areas characterized by tree cover (natural or semi-natural woody vegetation, generally greater than 6 meters tall); tree canopy accounts for 25-100 percent of the cover.

41. Deciduous Forest - Areas dominated by trees where 75 percent or more of the tree species shed foliage simultaneously in response to seasonal change.
42. Evergreen Forest - Areas dominated by trees where 75 percent or more of the tree species `maintain their leaves all year. Canopy is never without green foliage.
43. Mixed Forest - Areas dominated by trees where neither deciduous nor evergreen species represent more than 75 percent of the cover present.

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Shrubland - Areas characterized by natural or semi-natural woody vegetation with aerial stems, generally less than 6 meters tall, with individuals or clumps not touching to interlocking. Both evergreen and deciduous species of true shrubs, young trees, and trees or shrubs that are small or stunted because of environmental conditions are included.

51. Shrubland - Areas dominated by shrubs; shrub canopy accounts for 25-100 percent of the cover. Shrub cover is generally greater than 25 percent when tree cover is less than 25 percent. Shrub cover may be less than 25 percent in cases when the cover of other life forms (e.g. herbaceous or tree) is less than 25 percent and shrubs cover exceeds the cover of the other life forms.

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Non-Natural Woody - Areas dominated by non-natural woody vegetation; non-natural woody vegetative canopy accounts for 25-100 percent of the cover. The non-natural woody classification is subject to the availability of sufficient ancillary data to differentiate non-natural woody vegetation from natural woody vegetation.

61. Orchards/Vineyards/Other - Orchards, vineyards, and other areas planted or maintained for the production of fruits, nuts, berries, or ornamentals.

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Herbaceous Upland - Upland areas characterized by natural or semi-natural herbaceous vegetation; herbaceous vegetation accounts for 75-100 percent of the cover.
71. Grasslands/Herbaceous - Areas dominated by upland grasses and forbs. In rare cases, herbaceous cover is less than 25 percent, but exceeds the combined cover of the woody species present. These areas are not subject to intensive management, but they are often utilized for grazing.

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Planted/Cultivated - Areas characterized by herbaceous vegetation that has been planted or is intensively managed for the production of food, feed, or fiber; or is maintained in developed settings for specific purposes. Herbaceous vegetation accounts for 75-100 percent of the cover.

81. Pasture/Hay - Areas of grasses, legumes, or grass-legume mixtures planted for livestock grazing or the production of seed or hay crops.
82. Row Crops - Areas used for the production of crops, such as corn, soybeans, vegetables, tobacco, and cotton.
83. Small Grains - Areas used for the production of graminoid crops such as wheat, barley, oats, and rice.
84. Fallow - Areas used for the production of crops that do not exhibit visable vegetation as a result of being tilled in a management practice that incorporates prescribed alternation between cropping and tillage.
85. Urban/Recreational Grasses - Vegetation (primarily grasses) planted in developed settings for recreation, erosion control, or aesthetic purposes. Examples include parks, lawns, golf courses, airport grasses, and industrial site grasses.

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Wetlands - Areas where the soil or substrate is periodically saturated with or covered with water as defined by Cowardin et al.

91. Woody Wetlands - Areas where forest or shrubland vegetation accounts for 25-100 percent of the cover and the soil or substrate is periodically saturated with or covered with water.
92. Emergent Herbaceous Wetlands - Areas where perennial herbaceous vegetation accounts for 75-100 percent of the cover and the soil or substrate is periodically saturated with or covered with water.

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Cowardin, L.M., V. Carter, F.C. Golet, and E.T. LaRoe, 1979. Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitat of the United States, Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

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Similarities and differences between Anderson and NLCD systems are as follows:

    Urban or built-up classes: Commercial, Industrial, Transportation, and Communications/Utilities (all separate Anderson Level II classes) were treated as one NLCD class (Commercial/Industrial/Transportation). No attempt was made to derive Anderson Level III classes in NLCD. “Recreational” grasses, such as those that occur in golf courses or parks (treated as an urban class by Anderson) are considered to be a non-urban class in NLCD (a subdivision of “Herbaceous Planted/Cultivated). Residential (an Anderson Level II class) was divided into Low and High Intensity classes in NLCD.

    Water: Anderson Level II Water classes (Streams/Canals, Lakes/Ponds, Reservoirs, Bays, Open Marine) were classed as a single class (Open Water) in NLCD.

    Agriculture: Agricultural areas that are herbaceous in nature (Cropland and Pasture; Anderson Level II) are subdivided into four NLCD classes: Pasture/Hay, Row Crops, Small Grains and Fallow.

    Rangeland: No rangeland class (Anderson Level I) is identified by NLCD. Rather, “rangeland” is subdivided by NLCD into Grasslands/Herbaceous and Shrubland classes.

    Forest land: Evergreen Forest, Deciduous Forest and Mixed Forest are the same in both Anderson and NLCD. Clearcut and burned areas are classed as “Transitional Bare” areas in NLCD.

    Wetlands: Two classes are defined by NLCD. These are Woody wetlands and Emergent/Herbaceous wetlands. These are very analogous to the Anderson Level II wetland classes.

    Bare: Three NLCD classes are recognized. These are: Bare Rock/Sand Clay, Quarries/Strip Mines/Gravel Pits and Transitional Bare. These represent a consolidation of Anderson Level II classes.

    Tundra: While “tundra” is treated as a distinct Anderson Level I class, tundra (including arctic/alpine vegetation) is considered to be either “Grasslands/Herbaceous” or “Shrubland” classes by NLCD.

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