Remote sensing of land-cover change and landscape context of the National Parks: A case study of the Northeast Temperate Network

Document Type


Date of Original Version



National park units and protected areas face critical management challenges because of changing land-cover types and variability of landscape contexts within and adjacent the park boundaries. In this study we developed and implemented a multi-scale protocol for detecting and monitoring land-cover change in and adjacent to National Parks and ten segments of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) in the northeastern United States. We used Landsat imagery from 1970 to 2002 and recent ground-based photography to evaluate changes within park boundaries and within 0.5, 1, and 5 km buffers. The study concluded that all of the studied park units, except one segment of AT in Maine, experienced increases of urban land and declines of forest cover in the immediately adjacent areas and extended buffer zones. Over 30 years and across all parks and trail segments, urban land increased 172% and 181% within 0.5 and 1 km, respectively, of the park boundary or trail centerline. Over the same time period, forested area decreased by 5% and 6% within 0.5 and 1 km, respectively, of the park boundary or trail centerline, with more loss of forest near the parks (18%) than the trail segments (2%). This study provided baseline data demonstrating land-cover alteration over the past three decades and a foundation for a land-cover change and landscape context protocol suitable for monitoring future changes of National Parks and protected areas. © 2009 Elsevier Inc.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Remote Sensing of Environment