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Thematic accuracy assessment of the 2011 National Land Cover Database (NLCD)

March 29, 2017

Accuracy assessment is a standard protocol of National Land Cover Database (NLCD) mapping. Here we report agreement statistics between map and reference labels for NLCD 2011, which includes land cover for ca. 2001, ca. 2006, and ca. 2011. The two main objectives were assessment of agreement between map and reference labels for the three, single-date NLCD land cover products at Level II and Level I of the classification hierarchy, and agreement for 17 land cover change reporting themes based on Level I classes (e.g., forest loss; forest gain; forest, no change) for three change periods (2001–2006, 2006–2011, and 2001–2011). The single-date overall accuracies were 82%, 83%, and 83% at Level II and 88%, 89%, and 89% at Level I for 2011, 2006, and 2001, respectively. Many class-specific user's accuracies met or exceeded a previously established nominal accuracy benchmark of 85%. Overall accuracies for 2006 and 2001 land cover components of NLCD 2011 were approximately 4% higher (at Level II and Level I) than the overall accuracies for the same components of NLCD 2006. The high Level I overall, user's, and producer's accuracies for the single-date eras in NLCD 2011 did not translate into high class-specific user's and producer's accuracies for many of the 17 change reporting themes. User's accuracies were high for the no change reporting themes, commonly exceeding 85%, but were typically much lower for the reporting themes that represented change. Only forest loss, forest gain, and urban gain had user's accuracies that exceeded 70%. Lower user's accuracies for the other change reporting themes may be attributable to the difficulty in determining the context of grass (e.g., open urban, grassland, agriculture) and between the components of the forest-shrubland-grassland gradient at either the mapping phase, reference label assignment phase, or both. NLCD 2011 user's accuracies for forest loss, forest gain, and urban gain compare favorably with results from other land cover change accuracy assessments.

Publication Year 2017
Title Thematic accuracy assessment of the 2011 National Land Cover Database (NLCD)
DOI 10.1016/j.rse.2016.12.026
Authors James Wickham, Stephen V. Stehman, Leila Gass, Jon Dewitz, Daniel G. Sorenson, Brian J. Granneman, Richard V. Poss, Lori Anne Baer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Remote Sensing of Environment
Index ID 70185756
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center; Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center; Western Geographic Science Center