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Vegetation classification and distribution mapping report: Canyon de Chelly National Monument

January 1, 2010

Executive Summary: The classification and distribution mapping of the vegetation of Canyon de Chelly National Monument (CACH) and surrounding environment was accomplished through a multi-agency effort between 2003 and 2007. The National Park Service’s Southern Colorado Plateau Network facilitated the team that conducted the work, which comprised the U.S. Geological Survey’s Southwest Biological Science Center and Fort Collins Science Center, Navajo Natural Heritage Program, Northern Arizona University, and NatureServe. The project team described 48 plant communities for CACH—35 of which were described from quantitative classification based on field-relevé data collected in 2004. Five additional plant communities were based on field relevés collected in a previous study. The team derived four additional plant communities from field observations during the photointerpretation phase of the project, and field documented them during accuracy assessment. The National Vegetation Classification Standard served as a conceptual framework for assigning these plant communities to the alliance and association level. Ten of the 48 plant communities were designated “park specials”, that is, plant communities with insufficient data to describe them as new alliances or associations. The project team also developed a spatial vegetation map database representing CACH, with three different map-class schemas: base, group, and management map classes. The base map classes represented the finest level of spatial detail. Photointerpreters delineated initial polygons through manual interpretation of 2003/2004 1:12,000-scale true color aerial photography supplemented by occasional computer screen digitizing on a mosaic of digitized aerial photos. These polygons were labeled with base map classes during photointerpretation. Field visits verified interpretation concepts. The vegetation map database includes • ? 53 base map classes, which consist of associations and park specials classified with the quantitative analysis • ? additional associations noted during photointerpretation • ? non-vegetated land cover, such as infrastructure, land use, and geological land cover. The base map classes consist of 4,718 polygons in the project area. A field-based accuracy assessment of the base map classes showed the overall accuracy to be 50.8% The group map classes represent aggregations of the base map classes, approximating the group level of the National Vegetation Classification Standard, Version 2 (Federal Geographic Data Committee 2008). Terrestrial ecological systems, as described by NatureServe (Comer et al. 2003), were used as a first approximation of the group level. The project team identified 16 group map classes in this project. The overall accuracy of the group map classes was determined using the same accuracy assessment data as for the base map classes. The overall accuracy of the group representation of vegetation was 79.9%. In consultation with park staff, the team developed management map classes that consisted of park-defined groupings of base map classes and were intended to represent a balance between maintaining required accuracy and providing a focus on vegetation of particular interest or import to park managers. The 28 management map classes have an overall accuracy of 77.1%. While the main products of this project are the vegetation classification and the vegetation map database, a number of ancillary geographic information system and digital database products were also produced that can be used independently, or to augment the main products. These products include shapefiles of the location of field-collected data and relational databases of field-collected data.