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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory » Research » Research Project #435946

Research Project: Development of Innovative Remote Sensing Approaches for Updating the National Wetlands Inventory

Location: Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-13610-030-009-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jan 15, 2019
End Date: Sep 30, 2021

The goal of this agreement is to leverage the expertise of ARS and the University of Maryland to develop and test new approaches to rapidly and cost effectively update the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) geospatial dataset. The objective of these approaches will be to semi-automate the identification and removal/addition of areas of wetland loss and/or gain from the NWI dataset. The University of Maryland, with support from ARS, will be responsible for development of automated approaches to detect wetland gain/loss, and will work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to apply these approaches to develop updated NWI data.

A project plan will be developed by ARS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and University of Maryland (UMD) soon after agreement initiation. The project plan will identify specific products, as well as associated tasks and actions, in support of the aforementioned agreement goal, along with completion dates and responsible parties. The plan will be hierarchical, identifying both short and long-term products (i.e., updated versions of the National Wetlands Inventory [NWI] dataset). Initial development of these approaches will focus on areas of the U.S. where NWI data meet Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) standards for Wetland Mapping (Federal Geographic Data Committee Wetlands Subcommittee 2009), but no longer depict current wetland and deep-water land cover. Later stages of development will focus on areas of the U.S. with legacy NWI data. A range of input datasets (e.g., Landsat, Sentinel-1/2, WorldView, and NAIP) and processing platforms (e.g., Google Earth Engine) could be used to produce and test change datasets, but all input datasets and processing platforms must be accessible by the USFWS and all critical inputs must be available for the contiguous U.S. One or more products (i.e., updated versions of the NWI dataset for representative wetland landscapes) must be produced by UMD in collaboration with ARS and USFWS before this agreement is complete. The success of new approaches for updating the NWI geospatial dataset will be judged based on whether or not products developed through this agreement improve existing NWI geospatial data for a given location. An improved product is one that maximizes improvements to the contemporary nature of the NWI dataset and maintains the general appearance of the NWI dataset (e.g., smooth polygon boundaries) while minimizing impacts to Wetland Mapping Standards (Federal Geographic Data Committee Wetlands Subcommittee 2009) compliance. An improved product must have sound topology and polygon classification that is consistent with the FGDC Wetlands Mapping Standard. Products should be developed and tested in areas of the U.S. that are representative of the expected variability in the target wetland or deepwater class and associated land covers. The U.S. FWS will assist with testing newly developed products, and will determine whether or not products can be integrated into the existing NWI geospatial dataset. This testing should be facilitated through provision of Keyhole Markup Language (KML) and ArcGIS shapefiles depicting updated NWI geospatial dataset polygons. Technology transfer will be vital to improving operational capacity to rapidly update the NWI geospatial dataset, and thus successful implementation of this agreement. In addition to transferring code and related tools and datasets, developed approaches that are deemed successful must be documented through instructional manuals and hands-on training.