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Landsat classification of surface water for multiple seasons to monitor inundation of playa wetlands

April 4, 2018

To improve understanding of the distribution of important, ephemeral wetland habitats across the Great Plains, we documented the occurrence and distribution of surface water in playa wetland complexes for four different years across the Great Plains Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GPLCC) region. Years of research on playas has yielded multiple mechanisms and projections for sub-regions of the LCC area, but a complete, region-wide inventory and assessment has not been completed. This information is important because it informs habitat and population managers about the timing and location of habitat availability. Data representing the presence of water, percent of the area inundated with water, and the spatial distribution of playa wetlands with water, with an accurate time-stamp, are needed for a host of resource inventory, monitoring and research applications. For example, the distribution of inundated wetlands, represents the distribution of available habitat for resident shorebirds and water birds, stop-over habitats for migratory birds, connectivity and clustering of wetland habitats, and surface water recharge to the Ogallala aquifer; there is considerable variability in the distribution of playa wetlands holding water through time. Clear documentation of these spatially and temporally intricate processes will provide data required to assess connections between multiple environmental drivers, such as climate, land use, soil, and topography and the probability of inundation. Data presented here document the area covered by water according to archived Landsat TM data. Classifications representing 4 years of imagery (1989, 1996, 2004 and 2011) are provided.