The long-awaited update to land cover and land use (LULC) data across the Chesapeake Bay watershed has finally been completed and is highlighted inthis month’s map. Regional partners and the public can now access land cover, land use, and land use change data. Through a Cooperative Agreement spanning six states (and Washington, D.C.) over six years, the Chesapeake Innovation Center (CIC), in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Program and other contractors, updated the 2013/14 LULC data and created new one-meter, high-resolution LULC data from 2017/18 imagery for the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed. The differences over four years were analyzed to create the land use/land cover change dataset.
For the first time, changes in land cover and land use are provided as maps and tables, comparing 2013/14 with 2017/18 imagery. This analysis shows how landscapes have changed, for example, from agriculture or forested areas into solar facilities or developed areas. This look back into how the watershed has changed over time will be used to inform future decision-making to ensure our land use practices are protective of water quality. The detected changes have been applied to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s CAST model, which integrates the watershed and estuarine models to capture nutrient loads from the landscape. Updated land use data over time is paramount to understanding how our decisions on the land impact water quality across the Bay watershed and in our local waterways.
A quick look at the data in Hampton Roads shows losses in forest and natural succession land uses as they transition into developed lands, agriculture, or solar facilities. In the 4-year time span, there was also an increase in transitional land uses like harvested forest to turf grass. We encourage local planners and partners across the region to review the data and incorporate it into planning efforts.
This month’s map displays the LULC change data for Hampton Roads. The historic imagery is also available to view so that the LULC change data can be compared to corresponding year. Viewers can toggle the layers on and off in the map. If both the 2013/14 and 2017/18 imagery layers are turned off, then the most recent imagery from 2021 will be shown. Several bookmarks have also been added to show examples of landscape changes in Hampton Roads. Some of these changes were completed during the four-year time frame of interest (such as a new residential development) while others were in transition (such as a new solar facility in Surry). The next round of LULC updates will collect data from 2021/22 imagery and analyze the changes again to begin to see longer term trends.