Chesapeake Bay watershed to benefit from new Landsat 7 land cover maps

"Smarter" land use planning and better estimates of polluted water runoff across the 64,000 square-mile (110,000-square-kilometer) Chesapeake Bay watershed are on the horizon thanks to new land cover maps being produced by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Earth Science Applications Center (RESAC) at the University of Maryland. These maps, generated by overlaying images from NASA's Landsat 7, will provide a more precise assessment of the presence and amount of different land cover types including residential development, wetlands, forests and crop lands.

The new maps and their application to environmental concerns in the Bay watershed will be discussed Tuesday, May 30, at the American Geophysical Union's Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C. Scott Goetz and Stephen Prince of the university's department of geography and the NASA-funded RESAC will report at the meeting on the center's new products and on their map-generating system, which uses RESAC field data, classification software, and multiple Landsat 7 images taken during different seasons of a year.

"This type of precise land cover classification has not been done before for such an extensive region," said Goetz, university research scientist and RESAC manager. "The new maps can distinguish low-density from high-density residential development and crop land from pasture land, as well as wetlands and different types of forest."

Local and regional planning agencies in the Washington, D.C., area are currently working with the RESAC on the first Landsat 7 maps, which are centered on the nation's capital and the surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia. The Maryland Department of Planning has said it will use the maps in the state's new "smart growth" initiative, while the parks commission in Montgomery County, Md., plans to assess the extent of forests in its parks.

The new land cover classifications will also help improve estimates of polluted water runoff flowing into the Chesapeake Bay by

Contact: Lynn Chandler
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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