Assessing Urban Growth and Land Cover Trends Using Remote Sensing Imagery and Landscape
Author: Cary Roberts
Key Words: remote sensing, GIS, landscape metrics, urban growth, environment
Remote sensing imagery has proven useful to generate land cover data needed to assess urban growth and
evaluate its environmental effects. A temporal series of land cover maps for five study areas has been developed
to evaluate the correlation between urban growth and several environmental indicators. The study involves the
metropolitan areas of Phoenix, Raleigh-Durham, Chicago-Milwaukee, Detroit, and St. Paul-Minneapolis.
Various combinations of satellite imagery, aerial photography, and local land use maps have been used to
develop land cover maps spanning the 1970s to 2000s timeframe at decade intervals. Landscape metrics have
been generated from these maps using a Geographic Information System (GIS) based tool developed by the
Environmental Protection Agency (Analytical Tools Interface for Landscape Assessments, or ATtILA). These
data are being assessed in conjunction with water quality data and indicators of aquatic community structure.
Historical aerial photography and satellite imagery can be especially useful for developing a time series of
maps that assist the measurement and visualization of land cover trends. The digital analysis and interpretation
procedures used for the thematic classification of the imagery are reviewed. The variety of land use mapping
schemes in use, and resulting difficulties in some comparisons, are noted. Examples of the imagery used, land
cover map products developed, and resulting landscape metrics are presented and discussed.
Contact Information: Cary Roberts