Science Center Objects

Land Cover Trends was a research project focused on understanding the rates, trends, causes, and consequences of contemporary U.S. land use and land cover change.

Photo of a depressional wetland in croplands

The research was supported by the Climate and Land Use Change Research and Development Program of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and was a collaborative effort with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The project spanned from 1999 to 2011. Ongoing research is being conducted as part of the Land Change Research Project.

Land use and land cover change is a pervasive environmental phenomenon that modifies land cover characteristics and affects a broad range of socio-economic, biologic, geologic, and hydrologic systems and processes. Understanding the impacts of land use and land cover change and their associated feedbacks on environmental systems requires an understanding of the rates, patterns, and drivers of past, present, and future land use change.

Land use and land cover changes occur at all scales, from global to regional to local to microscopic ones. Changes can have dramatic, cumulative impacts. Due to the impacts on land management practices, economic health and sustainability, and social and political processes, land use and land cover changes are of concern to a wide variety of stakeholders, scientists, and citizens. The challenge facing policy-makers and scientists is a general lack of comprehensive data on the types and rates of land use and land cover changes. Furthermore, even less systematic evidence exists on the causes and consequences of the changes. The information produced by the Land Cover Trends project contributes to the geographic understanding of regional and national land change across the U.S. and will assist in formulating policies for regional management of environmental and natural resources.