Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

National Land Cover Database (NLCD) 2016 Shrubland Fractional Components for the Western U.S. (ver. 2.0, October 2019)

November 22, 2019

This data release has been superseded by version 3.0, available here:

Quantifying Western U.S. shrublands as a series of fractional components with remote sensing provides a new way to understand these changing ecosystems. The USGS NLCD team in collaboration with the BLM has produced the most comprehensive remote sensing-based quantification of Western U.S. shrublands to date. Nine shrubland ecosystem components, including percent shrub, sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), big sagebrush, herbaceous, annual herbaceous, litter, and bare ground cover, along with sagebrush and shrub heights, were quantified at 30-m resolution by mapping region. Each region required extensive ground measurement for model training and validation, two scales of remote sensing data from commercial high-resolution satellites and Landsat 8, and regression tree modeling to create component predictions. In the mapped portion (1,946,100 km²) of the total study area (2,557,556 km²), bare ground averaged 46.8%, shrub 14.4%, sagebrush 4.4%, big sagebrush 3.1%, herbaceous 22.8%, annual herbaceous 4.3% and litter 15.6%. Shrub height averaged 39.8 cm and sagebrush height 10.5 cm. Component accuracies using independent validation averaged R² values of 0.46, RMSE of 10.37 and nRMSE of 0.12, and cross validation averaged R² values of 0.72, RMSE of 5.09 and nRMSE of 0.062. Component composition strongly diverges by level III ecoregions, where 13 of 22 ecoregions are bare ground dominant, 8 are herbaceous dominant, and one is shrub dominant. Sagebrush physically covers 86,219 km², or 4.4%, of our study area, but it is present in 835,507 km², or 42.9%, of the non-masked area of our study area, underscoring its widespread distribution. This version contains some confusion between pinyon-juniper tree cover and shrubs. In a subsequent version, we have applied a more aggressive masking of tree canopy cover to each rangeland component. Specifically, we lowered the tree canopy cover threshold for exclusion from 40 to 25%. For pixels with 1-25% tree canopy cover we ensured that our primary components (shrub, herbaceous, litter, and bare ground) cover summed to 100% when added with the tree canopy. And, for the secondary components (sagebrush, big sagebrush, sagebrush height and shrub height) we reconciled to the primary component (shrub), excluding any pinyon-juniper woodlands. For the updated version with these changes applied, see This version of data were used as training for the Back-in-Time (BIT) fractional cover time series available at Component products can also be downloaded from

First posted - May 15, 2019 (available from author)
Revised - October 21, 2019 (version 2.0)

Publication Year 2019
Title National Land Cover Database (NLCD) 2016 Shrubland Fractional Components for the Western U.S. (ver. 2.0, October 2019)
DOI 10.5066/P9LTU2QM
Authors Matthew Rigge
Product Type Data Release
Record Source USGS Digital Object Identifier Catalog
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center