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National Park Service Vegetation Mapping Inventory Program: Appalachian National Scenic Trail vegetation mapping project

May 1, 2017

The National Park Service (NPS) Vegetation Mapping Inventory (VMI) Program classifies, describes, and maps existing vegetation of national park units for the NPS Natural Resource Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program. The NPS VMI Program is managed by the NPS I&M Division and provides baseline vegetation information to the NPS Natural Resource I&M Program. The U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, NatureServe, NPS Northeast Temperate Network, and NPS Appalachian National Scenic Trail (APPA) have completed vegetation classification and mapping of APPA for the NPS VMI Program.

Mappers, ecologists, and botanists collaborated to affirm vegetation types within the U.S. National Vegetation Classification (USNVC) of APPA and to determine how best to map the vegetation types by using aerial imagery. Analyses of data from 1,618 vegetation plots were used to describe USNVC associations of APPA. Data from 289 verification sites were collected to test the field key to vegetation associations and the application of vegetation associations to a sample set of map polygons. Data from 269 validation sites were collected to assess vegetation mapping prior to submitting the vegetation map for accuracy assessment (AA). Data from 3,265 AA sites were collected, of which 3,204 were used to test accuracy of the vegetation map layer. The collective of these datasets affirmed 280 USNVC associations for the APPA vegetation mapping project.

To map the vegetation and land cover of APPA, 169 map classes were developed. The 169 map classes consist of 150 that represent natural (including ruderal) vegetation types in the USNVC, 11 that represent cultural (agricultural and developed) vegetation types in the USNVC, 5 that represent natural landscapes with catastrophic disturbance or some other modification to natural vegetation preventing accurate classification in the USNVC, and 3 that represent nonvegetated water (non-USNVC). Features were interpreted from viewing 4-band digital aerial imagery using digital onscreen three-dimensional stereoscopic workflow systems in geographic information systems (GIS). (Digital aerial imagery was collected each fall during 2009–11 to capture leaf-phenology change of hardwood trees across the latitudinal range of APPA.) The interpreted data were digitally and spatially referenced, thus making the spatial-database layers usable in GIS. Polygon units were mapped to either a 0.5-hectare (ha) or 0.25-ha minimum mapping unit, depending on vegetation type or scenario; however, polygon units were mapped to 0.1 ha for alpine vegetation.

A geodatabase containing various feature-class layers and tables provide locations and support data to USNVC vegetation types (vegetation map layer), vegetation plots, verification sites, validation sites, AA sites, project boundary extent and zones, and aerial image centers and flight lines. The feature-class layer and related tables of the vegetation map layer provide 30,395 polygons of detailed attribute data covering 110,919.7 ha, with an average polygon size of 3.6 ha; the vegetation map coincides closely with the administrative boundary for APPA.

Summary reports generated from the vegetation map layer of the map classes representing USNVC natural (including ruderal) vegetation types apply to 28,242 polygons (92.9% of polygons) and cover 106,413.0 ha (95.9%) of the map extent for APPA. The map layer indicates APPA to be 92.4% forest and woodland (102,480.8 ha), 1.7% shrubland (1866.3 ha), and 1.8% herbaceous cover (2,065.9 ha). Map classes representing park-special vegetation (undefined in the USNVC) apply to 58 polygons (0.2% of polygons) and cover 404.3 ha (0.4%) of the map extent. Map classes representing USNVC cultural types apply to 1,777 polygons (5.8% of polygons) and cover 2,516.3 ha (2.3%) of the map extent. Map classes representing nonvegetated water (non-USNVC) apply to 332 polygons (1.1% of polygons) and cover 1,586.2 ha (1.4%) of the map extent.

Publication Year 2017
Title National Park Service Vegetation Mapping Inventory Program: Appalachian National Scenic Trail vegetation mapping project
Authors Kevin D. Hop, Andrew C. Strassman, Mark Hall, Shannon Menard, Ery Largay, Stephanie Sattler, Erin E. Hoy, Janis Ruhser, Enrika Hlavacek, Jennifer Dieck
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title Natural Resource Report
Series Number NPS/NETN/NRR—2017/1437
Index ID 70191275
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center