US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Remote Sensing of Environment 14, 2014


U.S. Government work


Forest cover loss and bare ground gain from 2006 to 2010 for the conterminous United States (CONUS) were quantified at a 30 m spatial resolution using Web-Enabled Landsat Data available from the USGS Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) ( The approach related multi-temporal WELD metrics and expert-derived training data for forest cover loss and bare ground gain through a decision tree classification algorithm. Forest cover loss was reported at state and ecoregional scales, and the identification of core forests' absent of change was made and verified using LiDAR data from the GLAS (Geoscience Laser Altimetry System) instrument. Bare ground gain correlated with population change for large metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) outside of desert or semi-desert environments. Google Earth™ time series images were used to validate the products. Mapped forest cover loss totaled 53,084 km2 and was found to be depicted conservatively, with a user's accuracy of 78% and a producer's accuracy of 68%. Excluding errors of adjacency, user's and producer's accuracies rose to 93% and 89%, respectively. Mapped bare ground gain equaled 5974 km2 and nearly matched the estimated area from the reference (Google Earth™) classification; however, user's (42%) and producer's (49%) accuracies were much less than those of the forest cover loss product. Excluding errors of adjacency, user's and producer's accuracies rose to 62% and 75%, respectively. Compared to recent 2001–2006 USGS National Land Cover Database validation data for forest loss (82% and 30% for respective user's and producer's accuracies) and urban gain (72% and 18% for respective user's and producer's accuracies), results using a single CONUS-scale model with WELD data are promising and point to the potential for national scale operational mapping of key land cover transitions. However, validation results highlighted limitations, some of which can be addressed by improving training data, creating a more robust image feature space, adding contemporaneous Landsat 5 data to the inputs, and modifying definition sets to account for differences in temporal and spatial observational scales. The presented land cover extent and change data are available via the official WELD website ( gov/CONUS_5Y_LandCover/).