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Vegetation classification and distribution mapping report: Mesa Verde National Park

January 1, 2009

The classification and distribution mapping of the vegetation of Mesa Verde National Park (MEVE) and surrounding environment was achieved through a multi-agency effort between 2004 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, Fort Collins Research Center, and Rocky Mountain Geographic Science Center; Northern Arizona University; Prescott College; and NatureServe.

The project team described 47 plant communities for MEVE, 34 of which were described from quantitative classification based on f eld-relevé data collected in 1993 and 2004. The team derived 13 additional plant communities from field observations during the photointerpretation phase of the project. The National Vegetation Classification Standard served as a framework for classifying these plant communities to the alliance and association level. Eleven of the 47 plant communities were classified as “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 MEVE, with three different map-class schemas: base, group, and management map classes. The base map classes represent the fi nest level of spatial detail. Initial polygons were developed using Definiens Professional (at the time of our use, this software was called eCognition), assisted by interpretation of 1:12,000 true-color digital orthophoto quarter quadrangles (DOQQs). These polygons (base map classes) were labeled using manual photo interpretation of the DOQQs and 1:12,000 true-color aerial photography. Field visits verified interpretation concepts.

The vegetation map database includes 46 base map classes, which consist of associations, alliances, and park specials classified with quantitative analysis, additional associations and park specials noted during photointerpretation, and non-vegetated land cover, such as infrastructure, land use, and geological land cover. The base map classes consist of 5,007 polygons in the project area. A field-based accuracy assessment of the base map classes showed overall accuracy to be 43.5%. Seven map classes comprise 89.1% of the park vegetated land cover.

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 2007), and reflecting physiognomy and floristics. Terrestrial ecological systems, as described by NatureServe (Comer et al. 2003), were used as the fi rst approximation of the group level. The project team identified 14 group map classes for 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 80.3%.

In consultation with park staff , the team developed management map classes, consisting of park-defined groupings of base map classes intended to represent a balance between maintaining required accuracy and providing a focus on vegetation of particular interest or import to park managers. The 23 management map classes had an overall accuracy of 73.3%.

While the main products of this project are the vegetation classification and the vegetation map database, a number of ancillary digital geographic information system and database products were also produced that can be used independently or to augment the main products. These products include shapefiles of the locations of field-collected data and relational databases of field-collected data.

Publication Year 2009
Title Vegetation classification and distribution mapping report: Mesa Verde National Park
Authors Kathryn A. Thomas, Monica L. McTeague, Lindsay Ogden, M. Lisa Floyd, Keith Schulz, Beverly A. Friesen, Tammy S. Fancher, Robert G. Waltermire, Anne Cully
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title Natural Resource Report
Series Number NPS/SCPN/NRR—2009/112
Index ID 70194406
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center