ECOLOGICAL LAND UNIT CLASSIFICATION USING DEM AND LARGE SCALE DIGITAL GEOLOGIC MAP DATABASES IN THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
By Peter G. Chirico, Scott Southworth, and Art Schultz
Classifying areas into ecological land units (ELU) are a significant step in locating All Taxonomy Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) study sites. The USGS Eastern Region Earth Surface Processes Team is developing an analytical geographic information systems ( GIS) methodology for developing ELU maps of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to quantitatively map the complex interaction between parent material, lithology, depositional process and topography. Digital elevation models from the National Elevation Data set (NED) and large scale digital geologic map databases are processed in a GIS to yield very detailed ELU classification data sets. This analysis helps to describe, map and understand the relationship between multiple landscape elements that influence the formation of soils, flora and fauna. To aid researchers from the National Park Service (NPS), the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in selecting sites with a variety of topographic and geologic characteristics a more accurate model of landscape assessment is proposed here. DEM data is processed to derive slope, aspect and surface curvature values for the study area. Slope and curvature data are classed and combined yielding a landform classification map. Aspect data is classed and combined with the landforms to produce a landscape classification map. Similarly, geologic map databases are queried for primary bedrock lithology and surficial material type and origin. Classified landscape data and geologic material data is integrated to produce an ELU data set that depicts 420 classes of unique topographic and geologic attributes. More complex analyses could be performed to derive even more classes by further subdividing component data sets in the process. This model has been developed as an example of the type of analysis which could be produced for the NPS and which would cover the entire park. The product of this methodology represents an application of digital topography and geology to natural resource management.
Chirico, P.G. 2004. Ecological Land Unit Classification Using DEMs and Large Scale Digital Geologic Map Databases in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Poster presented at USGS GIS Conference, March 1-5, Denver, CO.
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