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PeerJ  2015 

Suburban frog ponds: mapping local land cover yields different estimates of landscape composition than the National Land Cover Database

DOI: 10.7287/peerj.preprints.570v1

Keywords: exurban,houses,GIS,land use,landscape ecology,lawn,periurban,remote sensing,residential neighborhoods,urban ecology

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Suburban neighborhoods are rapidly spreading globally. As such, there is an increasing need to study the environmental and ecological effects of suburbanization. At large spatial extents, from county-level to global, remote sensing-derived land cover data, such as the National Land Cover Dataset (NLCD), have yielded insight into patterns of urbanization and concomitant large-scale ecological patterns in response. However, the components of suburban land cover (houses, yards, etc.) are dispersed throughout the landscape at a finer scale than the relatively coarse grain size (30m pixels) of NLCD may be able to detect. Our understanding of ecological processes in heterogeneous landscapes is reliant upon the accuracy and resolution of our measurements as well as the scale at which we measure the landscape. Analyses of ecological processes along suburban gradients are restricted by the currently available data. As ecologists are becoming increasingly interested in describing phenomena at spatial extents as small as individual households, we need higher-resolution landscape measurements. Here, I describe a simple method of translating the components of suburban landscapes into finer-grain, local land cover (LLC) data in GIS. Using both LLC and NLCD, I compare the suburban matrix surrounding ponds occupied by two different frog species. I illustrate large discrepancies in Forest, Yard, and Developed land cover estimates between LLC and NLCD, leading to markedly different interpretations of suburban landscape composition. NLCD, relative to LLC, estimates lower proportions of forest cover and higher proportions of anthropogenic land covers in general. These two land cover datasets provide surprisingly different descriptions of the suburban landscapes, potentially affecting our understanding of how organisms respond to an increasingly suburban world. LLC provides a free and detailed fine-grain depiction of the components of suburban neighborhoods and will allow ecologists to better explore heterogeneous suburban landscapes at multiple spatial scales.


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