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Accuracy assessment of NLCD 2011 impervious cover data for the Chesapeake Bay region, USA

August 21, 2018

The National Land Cover Database (NLCD) contains three eras (2001, 2006, 2011) of percentage urban impervious cover (%IC) at the native pixel size (30 m-x-30 m) of the Landsat Thematic Mapper satellite. These data are potentially valuable to environmental managers and stakeholders because of the utility of %IC as an indicator of watershed and aquatic condition, but lack an accuracy assessment because of the absence of suitable reference data. Recently developed 1 m2 land cover data for the Chesapeake Bay region makes it possible to assess NLCD %IC accuracy for a 262,000 km2 region based on a census rather than a sample of reference data. We report agreement between the two %IC datasets for watersheds and the riparian zones within watersheds and four additional square units. The areas of the six assessment units were 40 ha cell, 433 ha (riparian unit average), 2,756 ha cell, 5,626 ha cell, 8,569 ha (watershed unit average) and 22,500 ha cell. Mean Absolute Deviation (MAD) was ≤ 1.6% for each of the six assessment units and Mean Deviation (MD) was only slightly less, indicating NLCD reliably reproduced %IC from the 1 m2 data with a small (≤ 1.6%) and consistent tendency for underestimation. Results were sensitive to assessment unit choice. The results for the four largest assessment units had very similar regression parameters, R2 values, and patterns of bias. Results for the riparian assessment were different from those for the watershed unit and the other three larger units. MAD was about 50% less for the riparian zones than it was for the watersheds, the direction of bias was less consistent, and NLCD %IC was uniformly higher than 1 m2 %IC in urbanized riparian zones. For the smallest unit, bias patterns were more similar to the riparian unit and regression results were more similar to the four larger units. MAD and MD were also sensitive to the amount of urbanization, increasing as NLCD %IC increased. The low overall bias and positive relationship between bias and level of urbanization suggest that the benefits of obtaining 1 m2 IC data outside of urban areas may not outweigh the costs of obtaining such data.

Publication Year 2018
Title Accuracy assessment of NLCD 2011 impervious cover data for the Chesapeake Bay region, USA
DOI 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2018.09.010
Authors James Wickham, Nate Herold, Stephen V. Stehman, Collin Homer, George Z. Xian, Peter Claggett
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Index ID 70212568
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center