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MultiResolution Land Characteristics (MRLC) Consortium

The MultiResolution Land Characteristics (MRLC) Consortium is a bottom-up, E-Government initiative to provide digital land cover and related data for the nation. EPA is one of 10 federal partners of the MRLC Consortium, along with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the National Atmospheric and Space Administration (NASA), and the U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers (USCOE).

The MRLC partners work together to coordinate and generate consistent and relevant land cover information at a national scale for a wide variety of environmental, land management, and modeling applications. Collectively, the MRLC Consortium produces five different products that include generalized land cover, impervious cover, thematically-rich cropland cover and vegetation cover, forest canopy density, and numerous data layers related to fire. Many of the products can be used to detect both change and trends in land cover. 

MRLC products are used to support several EPA objectives. MRLC products have underpinned nearly every impaired water Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) assessment.  They are a principal data source for assessing the likelihood of restoration success of impaired waters (recovery potential). MRLC products are used in EPA’s Community Multi-scale Air Quality (CMAQ) model. They have been used to assess greenhouse gas emissions (PDF) (505 pp, 12.4 MK, About PDF) that are reported to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to develop green infrastructure assessments Exit, and to support EPA's EnviroAtlas.

The five products are (note that the links exit the site Exit):  

  1. The National Land Cover Database (NLCD):  NLCD is a land cover monitoring database, providing generalized land cover (16 classes) and impervious cover (1% increments) for the U.S. for 2001, 2006, and 2011.  NLCD has also produced forest canopy density (1% increments) for 2001 and 2011.
  2. Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP): C-CAP is a wetland and land cover monitoring database for U.S. coastal zones, including the Great Lakes.  C-CAP produces temporal land cover for MRLC coastal zones focused on detailed wetland classes including palustrine and estuarine expressions of forest, scrub and emergent wetlands; palustrine and estuarine expressions of aquatic bed; and unconsolidated shore. Products are available for 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011 for most locations.
  3. Cropland Data Layer (CDL):  CDL is a cropland monitoring database. CDL blends extensive field data and satellite information to produce very detail maps of crop types (e.g., winter wheat, corn, soybeans, sorghum, rice, cotton). The data have been produced annually since 2008.
  4. Landscape Fire and Resource Planning Tools (LANDFIRE):  LANDFIRE, initiated because of increasing trends in the number, size, and severity of fires, is vegetation monitoring database used to improve planning, response and understanding of wildfire. LANDFIRE produces over 20 geo-spatial databases related to vegetation, fire behavior, and fire regime.
  5. GAP Analysis Program (GAP):  GAP is a vegetation database and modeling suite used for conservation of plant and animal communities. Satellite data are used to produce thematically rich vegetation maps which are used to model species distributions. Species distributions are then examined in the context of other information to assess conservation status.