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A Digital Land Cover Map of Wyoming, USA: A Tool for Vegetation Analysis

Kenneth L. Driese, William A. Reiners, Evelyn H. Merrill and Kenneth G. Gerow
Journal of Vegetation Science
Vol. 8, No. 1 (Feb., 1997), pp. 133-146
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3237251
Page Count: 14
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A Digital Land Cover Map of Wyoming, USA: A Tool for Vegetation Analysis
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Abstract

A Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) based digital land cover map has been created for the state of Wyoming, USA, at moderate spatial (1-km2 minimum mapping unit) and high typal (41 land cover types) resolution as part of the Wyoming Gap Analysis Program (WGAP). This map presents opportunities for regional characterization of land cover, especially vegetation, and for examination of ecological phenomena that manifest themselves over large areas. Using the digital land cover data, we describe Wyoming vegetation and examine positions of three prominent physiognomic transitions in Wyoming: the elevation of upper and lower treeline, and the position of the biogeographic boundary between shrub-and grass-dominated vegetation. By area, the three leading land cover types in Wyoming are Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis sagebrush (33.4 %), mixed grass prairie (17.5 %) and Pinus contorta forest (6.5 %). Average upper-treeline elevation in Wyoming is 2947 m, and decreases with increasing latitude at an average rate of about 0.5 m/km, less than the rate of about 0.9 m/km reported by Peet (1978) for a gradient from Mexico to Canada. Lower-treeline occurs at an average elevation of 2241 m, and decreases with increasing latitude and with southerly aspect. In Wyoming, shrub-dominated communities are more likely to occur than grass-dominated communities as summer precipitation decreases below 282 mm. All of these relationships are subtle, and it appears that for particular areas, local factors are more important than regional climatic trends in explaining the position of phytogeographic boundaries.

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