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Development and application of Landsat-based wetland vegetation cover and unvegetated-vegetated marsh ratio (UVVR) for the conterminous United States

May 2, 2022

Effective management and restoration of salt marshes and other vegetated intertidal habitats require objective and spatially integrated metrics of geomorphic status and vulnerability. The unvegetated-vegetated marsh ratio (UVVR), a recently developed metric, can be used to establish present-day vegetative cover, identify stability thresholds, and quantify vulnerability to open-water conversion over a range of spatial scales. We developed a Landsat-based approach to quantify the within-pixel vegetated fraction and UVVR for coastal wetlands of the conterminous United States, at 30-m resolution for 2014–2018. Here we present the methodology used to generate the UVVR from spectral indices, along with calibration, validation, and spatial autocorrelation assessments. We then demonstrate multiple applications of the data across varying spatial scales: first, we aggregate the UVVR across individual states and estuaries to quantify total vegetated wetland area for the nation. On the state level, Louisiana and Florida account for over 50% of the nation’s total, while on the estuarine level, the Chesapeake Bay Estuary and selected Louisiana coastal areas each account for over 6% of the nation’s total vegetated wetland area. Second, we present cases where this dataset can be used to track wetland change (e.g., expansion due to restoration and loss due to stressors). Lastly, we propose a classification methodology that delineates areas vulnerable to open-water expansion based on the 5-year mean and standard deviation of the UVVR. Calculating the UVVR for the period-of-record back to 1985, as well as regular updating, will fill a critical gap for tracking national status of salt marshes and other vegetated habitats through time and space.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Development and application of Landsat-based wetland vegetation cover and unvegetated-vegetated marsh ratio (UVVR) for the conterminous United States
DOI 10.1007/s12237-022-01081-x
Authors Neil Kamal Ganju, Brady Couvillion, Zafer Defne, Kate Ackerman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Estuaries and Coasts
Index ID 70233583
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center; Wetland and Aquatic Research Center

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