National Park Service


Date of this Version



Natural Resource Report NPS/MNRR/NRR 2019/2051 / NPS 651/166289, December 2019

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Please cite this publication as:

Baldvins, T., M. Ley, D. Jones, J. Stevens, and H. Pilkington. 2019. Vegetation classification and mapping: Missouri National Recreational River. Natural Resource Report NPS/MNRR/NRR—2019/2051. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.


United States government work. Public domain material.


Executive Summary

The vegetation inventory project at Missouri National Recreational River (MNRR) classified and mapped vegetation within the park administrative boundary and estimated thematic map accuracy quantitatively. The project was conducted over a four year period from the summer of 2015 to the winter of 2019.

The project follows guidance provided by the National Park Service (NPS) Vegetation Mapping Inventory (VMI) Program. The overall process includes initial planning and scoping, imagery procurement, field data collection, data analysis, imagery interpretation and classification, and accuracy assessment. The initial planning and scoping meetings to support study plan development took place in December, 2009, in Yankton, South Dakota, and included representation by MNRR, NPS Northern Great Plains Network, Colorado State University (CSU), and other interested agencies and organizations.

A variety of existing imagery sources were utilized for the MNRR mapping project. The primary imagery used for the base map for the project was 2016 60 cm National Aerial Imagery Program (NAIP) imagery. Additional imagery supporting the interpretation phase included current and historic true-color Google Earth and Bing Maps imagery, as well as 2015 4-band 30 cm imagery from Cornerstone Mapping Inc., and imagery from Digital Globe, Inc. (2014 WorldView-2, Quickbird).

Prior to field work, the preliminary classification developed for the study plan identified 114 U.S. National Vegetation Classification (USNVC) associations; 34 were known to occur in the project area, while the other 80 associations were potentially located in the area. Existing vegetation and mapping data combined with field-collected vegetation plot data contributed to the final vegetation classification. Vegetation data collected at 162 subjective plot locations at MNRR over the summer of 2015 supported vegetation classification using hierarchical clustering and professional expertise. Additional types were identified in the course of additional field work and photointerpretation reconnaissance. The final vegetation classification includes 42 USNVC associations and 10 park special types. Types include 20 forest and woodland types, 8 shrubland types, 17 herbaceous types, and 7 sparse vegetation types.

The final mapping model, which cross walks vegetation types present with what can be consistently classified and mapped (i.e. interpreted), consists of 31 map classes within MNRR. Of these, six represent land use cover classes (cultivated crops, pasture/hay ground, non-vegetated barren land or borrow pit, developed open space, developed low, medium, or high intensity, and water). Of the 25 non-land use map classes, 14 represent a single USNVC association or park special, two map classes represent two USNVC associations or park specials, five map classes represent three USNVC associations or park specials, two map classes represent four USNVC associations or park specials, one map class represents five USNVC associations or park specials, and one map class represents six USNVC associations or park specials.

Species dominating in forest and woodland types include eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii), common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima). Dominant species of the shrubland types found in the park are roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii), Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), and sandbar willow (Salix interior). Other less extensive shrubland types are dominated by either western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis) or smooth sumac (Rhus glabra). The most common species within herbaceous types tend toward ruderal, and include Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), smooth brome (Bromus inermis), and cuman ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya). The most common species in wetland types include common reed (Phragmites australis) and reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea).

The final MNRR vegetation map consists of 3,590 polygons totaling 69,011 ac (27,928 ha). Mean polygon size is 12.1 ac (4.90 ha). Of the total area, 37,789 ac (15,293 ha) or 55% represent natural or ruderal vegetation map classes. Agricultural vegetation such as cultivated crops and pasture account for approximately 6,238 ac (2,524 ha) or 9% of the total mapped area. Non-vegetated barren land was rare, only accounting for 45 ac (18 ha) or 0.1%. Developed areas such as open mowed fields, parking lots, buildings, and others account for approximately 1,562 ac (632 ha) or 2%. Open water is the most widespread land cover class, with an area of approximately 23,422 ac (9,479 ha) or 34% of the total mapped area. Within the total area occupied by vegetation map classes, forest and woodland types were the most extensive (17,007 ac (6,882 ha) or 46%), followed by herbaceous types (11,457 ac (4,636 ha) or 31%), sparse types (6,287 ac (2,544 ha) or 16%), and shrubland types (3,038 ac (1,229 ha) or 7%).

A total of 737 accuracy assessment (AA) samples were collected to evaluate the thematic accuracy of the vegetation polygon data. As a simple proportion, the final thematic accuracy was 84.8%. When map class accuracies were weighted in proportion to the area they occupy within the park, the overall accuracy was 89.9%. Six map classes that still fell below the 80% thematic accuracy threshold were retained because their accuracies were close to 80% or they were represented by only a few polygons.

In addition to the vegetation polygon database and map, the project delivered several other products to support park resource management, including a vegetation classification, a field key to the associations, local association descriptions, a photographic database, a project geodatabase, ArcGIS .mxd files and the aerial imagery acquired for the project. These products provided the Park with an array of tools to assist in managing park resources and making informed resource management decisions. A geodatabase links the vegetation data layer to other feature classes such as vegetation classification and accuracy assessment plots and associated sampling data from the PLOTS database, plot photos, and project boundary extent. The database includes tables documenting the USNVC hierarchy and allows for spatial queries of data associated with a vegetation polygon or sample point. All geospatial products are projected using North American Datum 1983 (NAD83) in Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) Zone 14N. Other products include ArcGIS .mxd files for each park district along with the aerial imagery acquired for the project. The final report also includes methods xii and results, contingency tables showing AA results, field forms, a species list, and a guide to imagery interpretation.

The use of standard national vegetation classification and mapping protocols facilitates effective resource stewardship by ensuring compatibility and widespread use of the information throughout the NPS as well as by other federal and state agencies. The geospatial and other data and products support a wide variety of resource assessment, park management, and planning needs. In addition, the associated information provides a structure for framing and answering critical scientific questions about vegetation communities and their relationship to environmental processes across the landscape.