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Northeast Temperate Network (NETN)

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Vegetation Mapping

A grey fox is photographed by a trail camera on the A.T.
Forested landscape surrounding the A.T. NPS photo.


This project involves the creation of a vegetation map for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (APPA) in accordance with guidlines specified by the USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program (VMP).  The Resource Mapping and Spatial Analysis Team (RMSAT) at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) will perfom the specified mapping. UMESC personnel have extensive experience working with the VMP and NatureServe to complete vegetation mapping of national parks.  The RMSAT has completed vegetation mapping projects for Voyageurs National Park, Acadia National Park, Effigy Mounds National Monument, and Glacier National Park.

Although traditional methods of photointerpretation have been used in the past, UMESC plans to explore and use automated land cover software to complete this project assuming that the software meets VMP accuracy standards.  These new methods will provide an exciting challenge in mapping, and RMSAT will continue to provide the Appalachian community and the VMP with feedback regarding the use of these new methods.


The primary objective of this project is to develop a spatially referenced vegetation geodatabase, supported with ecological and vegetation data, for use in geographic information systems (GIS) and in support of the management of park natural resources.  The project will provide an inventory of vegetation communities at APPA, providing descriptive botanical and ecological information that can be referenced to locations as provided by the vegetation geodatabase.  The vegetation geodatabase’s footprint will cover all of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail with a minimal buffer beyond the park boundary.


The US National Vegetation Classification (NVC, FGDC 2008 and Grossman et al. 1998), managed by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Vegetation Subcommittee and maintained by NatureServe, will be used for the classification of natural, semi-natural, and cultural vegetation at APPA.  The hierarchy of the natural and semi-natural vegetation classification is presented in Table 1. The hierarchy of the cultural vegetation classification is presented in Table 2. Natural and semi-natural vegetation types will be defined and described based on analysis of vegetation data collected for this project and other compatible existing data and comparison and evaluation of the results in a regional/national context using NVC units.  Part of the classification process will include writing new descriptions or revising existing descriptions of each of the NVC types from both a global (rangewide) and local (park-specific) perspective.

Vegetation map classes will be developed by the RMSAT and will link (crosswalk) to the NVC vegetation types and their descriptions as defined by the NVC.  For natural non-vegetative types (i.e. rock, beach, open water) or developed types (i.e. roads, farmsteads, urban areas) not associated with the NVC, the NLCD 2001 (Homer et al. 2004) classification will be used.   Map classes will be determined based on photographic signatures as they relate to the NVC types identified at APPA.

Accuracy Assessment

Once the vegetation shapefile layer is complete, a thematic accuracy assessment will be performed to validate the vegetation map classes.  Map classes representing NVC Natural/Semi-natural types will be assessed.  Accuracy requirement for the USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program requires a minimum of 80% accuracy for each map class that is assessed. Field observation data will be collected and compared to the vegetation shapefile layer.  An analysis will be performed producing a contingency table of the results.


This project will result in the production of the following end products:

  • A final report
  • Geodatabase
  • Digital data files and hard copy data sheets
  • Imagery of the project area
  • Orthorectified Aerial Photos
  • Digital graphics of all GIS layers
  • Hard copy & digital vegetation map
  • FGDC compliant metadata.

Key Contacts

Ery Largay

Regional Vegetation Ecologist
617/542/1908 x 247 (office)

Mark E. Hall

Regional Vegetation Ecologist/Project Manager NatureServe

Fred Dieffenbach

Environmental Monitoring Coordinator
Northeast Temperate Network / Appalachian NST
802-457-3368 ext. 36
802-457-3405 (fax)

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster