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Mapping the Natchez Trace Parkway

December 13, 2011

Based on a National Park Service (NPS) landcover classification, a landcover map of the 715-km (444-mile) NPS Natchez Trace Parkway (hereafter referred to as the "Parkway") was created. The NPS landcover classification followed National Vegetation Classification (NVC) protocols. The landcover map, which extended the initial landcover classification to the entire Parkway, was based on color-infrared photography converted to 1-m raster-based digital orthophoto quarter quadrangles, according to U.S. Geological Survey mapping standards. Our goal was to include as many alliance classes as possible in the Parkway landcover map. To reach this goal while maintaining a consistent and quantifiable map product throughout the Parkway extent, a mapping strategy was implemented based on the migration of class-based spectral textural signatures and the congruent progressive refinement of those class signatures along the Parkway. Progressive refinement provided consistent mapping by evaluating the spectral textural distinctiveness of the alliance-association classes, and where necessary, introducing new map classes along the Parkway. By following this mapping strategy, the use of raster-based image processing and geographic information system analyses for the map production provided a quantitative and reproducible product. Although field-site classification data were severely limited, the combination of spectral migration of class membership along the Parkway and the progressive classification strategy produced an organization of alliances that was internally highly consistent. The organization resulted from the natural patterns or alignments of spectral variance and the determination of those spectral patterns that were compositionally similar in the dominant species as NVC alliances. Overall, the mapped landcovers represented the existent spectral textural patterns that defined and encompassed the complex variety of compositional alliances and associations of the Parkway. Based on that mapped representation, forests dominate the Parkway landscape. Grass is the second largest Parkway land cover, followed by scrub-shrub and shrubland classes and pine plantations. The map provides a good representation of the landcover patterns and their changes over the extent of the Parkway, south to north.