Monitoring land cover change in the Lake Superior basin

T. P. Hollenhorst, L. B. Johnson, J. Ciborowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Consistent, repeatable and broadly applicable land use, land cover data is needed across the Lake Superior basin to facilitate ecosystem condition assessment and trend analysis. Such a data set collected regularly through time could inform and focus field monitoring efforts, and help prioritize restoration and mitigation efforts. Unfortunately, few data sets exist that are bi-nationally consistent in time, classification method, or resolution. To this end, we integrated land cover data across both the Canadian (Ontario Provincial Land Cover data) and US portions (National Land Cover Data) of the Lake Superior basin for two time steps (approximately 1992 and 2001) roughly one decade apart. After harmonizing landcover classes across the two datasets we compared the explicit amount and relative amount (total hectares and proportion of each area as percents) for each of the common land cover classes that occurred across the two time steps for the entire Lake Superior basin, for the U.S. portion of the Lake Superior basin only, and for the Canadian portion of the Lake Superior basin only. We also compared land cover change for the entire basin within a 1 km and a 10 km buffer of the Great Lakes shoreline. We then summarized and compared these land cover types for each time period across a common set of watersheds derived from elevation data (Hollenhorst et al., 2007) for the entire Lake Superior basin. This allowed us to identify and quantify the types of change occurring generally across the entire basin, more specifically across both the U.S. and Canadian portions of the basin, and more explicitly for near coastal areas and watersheds across the entire basin. Noteworthy changes were detected across the basin, particularly an increase in mixed forest types and a corresponding decrease in coniferous forest types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-442
Number of pages10
JournalAquatic Ecosystem Health and Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research has been supported in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Estuarine and Great Lakes (EaGLe) program through funding to Great Lakes Environmental Indicators (GLEI), U.S. EPA Agreement R828675-00. We would like to thank Dr. Pete Wolter and his co-authors who made the U.S. NLCD data available. We would also like to thank Mike Robertson of Land Information Ontario who helped us with the Ontario data. Dr. Terry Brown, of the Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota Duluth, was very helpful in considering the approach and the results of this effort and we very much appreciate his assistance. Three anonymous reviewers also helped to greatly improve the quality of this manuscript. This document has been reviewed in accordance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policy and approved for publication. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.


  • Binational Land Cover
  • Great Lakes
  • National Land Cover Data
  • Ontario Provincial Land Cover
  • land use change


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