Minnesota Land Use/Cover:  Classification Systems

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A number of different classification systems have been developed to categorize land use and land cover.

Note:  also see the Quick-start comparison table for descriptions of the classes used for each of Minnesota's land use/cover GIS data sets.

  • Vegetation Classification and Information Standard, endorsed by the Federal Geographic Data Committee, June 1997. This national standard concentrates on defining broad categories rather than very detailed ones; the intent is to make it easier to aggregate data collected by any federal agency.
    • Guidelines for Describing Associations and Alliances of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification, The Ecological Society of America, Vegetation Classification Panel, July 2004 (PDF, 165 p.). This evolving document provides guidance on defining, naming, and describing floristic units to support the National Vegetation Classification System. Includes a review of the history and development of vegetation classification in the U.S., definitions of vegetation associations and alliances, requirements for field plot records and the identification and classification of vegetation types, guidelines for peer review of proposed revisions, and a structure for data access and management.
  • Minnesota Land Cover Classification System, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Metro Region, 2004. This system focuses on land cover rather than land use. It is a hybrid system, incorporating the National Vegetation Classification System, the Minnesota Natural Heritage native plant community types, and a cultural classification system to distinguish among different types and amounts of land cover, vegetation and impervious surfaces.
  • Upper Midwest Gap Image Processing Protocol, June 1998 (PDF, 300K), see Appendix A. This classification, used to map Minnesota as part of the Upper Midwest Gap Analysis Program, was modified from the detailed WISCLAND land cover system originally developed for use in Wisconsin.
  • Minnesota's Native Vegetation: A key to natural communities, Minnesota County Biological Survey, Division of Ecological Services, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 1993. This system is used to collect data about the distribution and ecology of rare plants, rare animals and native plant communities.
  • A Land Use and Land Cover Classification System for Use with Remote Sensor Data, by James Anderson, et. al., 1976 (PDF, 114K). The "Anderson System" has been the basis for many land use data sets.
  • Potential Natural Vegetation, A.W. Kuchler, 1960s. This classification indicates the types of vegetation that would likely cover the land if there were no disturbances from people or nature.

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