Vegetation Mapping

The vegetation mapping efforts, initiated in 1995 after the Vision Fire, passed a major milestone with the delivery of a draft digital vegetation map in the mid-2000s. Aerial photographer interpreters delineated over 12,000 land-cover polygons within the 155,000-acre mapping area that includes Point Reyes National Seashore, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Tomales Bay State Park, Samuel P. Taylor State Park, and Mount Tamalpais State Park.

In addition to the map, a draft botanical classification following the California Native Plant Society’s and national standards was developed for the region. A statistically rigorous accuracy assessment is currently being conducted to evaluate how well the photo interpreters labeled the 79 land-cover types delineated in the draft map. The completed vegetation map will be a valuable tool to plan and implement the park’s fire management and research programs and compare pre-fire conditions with current conditions.

Since 2018, a broad partnership* co-led by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy has been working towards creating a fine scale vegetation map of Marin County. After collecting high resolution aerial imagery, LiDAR, and on-the-ground data, they released a draft "Lifeform Map" in 2020 with 22 vegetation classes. In June 2021, they finalized that map and completed its fine scale counterpart.

The 2021 Marin Countywide Fine Scale Vegetation Map details the state of the landscape in 2018. It features 96,636 polygons representing 82 vegetation classes from the standardized National Vegetation Classification. The map is the first of its kind for Marin, and will serve as a valuable new tool for scientists, land managers, and plant nerds. For example, it can help scientists track changes in plant communities after a wildfire. It can also help inform plans for maintaining resilient landscapes in the face of interrelated challenges like climate change, wildfire, invasive species, and disease.

The One Tam Regional Forest Health Strategy for Public Lands is one such planning effort that intends to put the new map to good use. The strategy authors aim to offer a variety of proven options for managing forests to improve biodiversity and reduce fire fuels. The fine-scale map will help them figure out which areas could benefit from which management strategies.

With the fine scale vegetation map now complete, the Conservancy-led team will work on a formal accuracy assessment, a final mapping report, and couple related maps. They are finalizing an impervious surfaces map (of where the ground cannot absorb water, e.g., roads, buildings, and parking areas) and hydrological systems mapping. As part of the latter, you can now explore updated stream features for Marin via the National Hydrography Dataset. Updates to the Watershed Boundaries Dataset are (as of 2021) coming soon.

In the meantime, many of the same mapping team members are also busy completing a similar fine-scale vegetation map for San Mateo County. They hope to have that one ready in January 2022.

*Project partners include: Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Point Reyes National Seashore, California State Parks (Bay Area Districts), Marin County Parks, Marin Municipal Water District, Marin Resource Conservation District, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, US Geological Survey, California Native Plant Society, County of Marin…and many more agencies and organizations.

Multimedia

Science Behind the Scenery: Vegetation Mapping

In 2004, the Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center produced a series of ten Science Behind the Scenery videos to highlight how science is used to learn more about ecosystems, plants, animals, and other organisms at Point Reyes National Seashore and how science is used to guide management decisions. One of the videos focused on vegetation mapping.

 
 

Last updated: July 9, 2021

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