Land use land cover change in the U.S. Great Lakes basin 1992 to 2001

Peter T. Wolter, Carol A. Johnston, Gerald J Niemi

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71 Scopus citations


The pace of Land Use/Land Cover (LULC) change in the Great Lakes, particularly in urban and suburban areas, far exceeds that predicted by population growth alone. Thus, quantification of LULC and change through time may be a key factor in understanding the near-shore ecology of this system. The work described in this paper is part of a larger effort called the Great Lakes Environmental Indicators Project (GLEI), whose goal was to develop and refine environmental state indicators for the U.S. near-shore zone of the Great Lakes. Here we describe methodologies for using existing Landsat-based LULC maps to assemble consistent LULC data for the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes basin for 1992 and 2001, as well as summarizing salient LULC results. Between 1992 and 2001, 2.5% (798,755 ha) of the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes watershed experienced change. Transitions due to new construction included a 33.5% (158,858 ha) increase in low-intensity development and a 7.5% (140,240 ha) increase in road area. Agricultural and forest land each experienced ∼2.3% (259,244 ha and 322,463 ha, respectively) decrease in area. Despite the large and enduring agricultural losses observed (2.23% of 1992 agricultural area), the rate of agricultural land decrease between 1992 and 2001 was less than that reported by the EPA (-9.8%) for the previous ∼10-year period. Areas of new development were largely concentrated near coastal areas of the Great Lakes. Over 38% (6,014 ha) of wetland losses to development between 1992 and 2001 occurred within 10 km of a coastal area, and most of that area was within the nearest 1 kilometer. Clearly, these land use change data will be especially useful as quantifiable indicators of landscape change over time and aid in future land use planning decisions for protection of the integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-628
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006


  • Great Lakes
  • Indicators
  • Land cover
  • Land use
  • Landsat


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