Classiﬁcation and Mapping at the Idaho National Laboratory Site
Accurate classiﬁcation and mapping of vegetation communities
have become increasingly important tools for conservation
management. By understanding the distribution and condition of
plant communities on a landscape, a number of conservation goals
can more easily be met including:
Determining which community types are intrinsically rare
or have been severely degraded
Identifying the best remaining occurrences of natural
communities across their geographic ranges
Development of habitat suitability models for predicting
species occurrences, and
Classifying areas for their importance in conservation
Previous vegetation maps of the INL Site are inadequate to
serve these conservation management planning goals because they
are outdated. The most recent effort was almost twenty years ago
and does not capture important changes that have occurred since
that time including ﬁres, sagebrush die-off and invasion by
non-native plants. Also, methodologies for vegetation classiﬁcation
and mapping have been reﬁned and standardized since those
earlier maps and will allow for continuity between classiﬁcation
on the INL Site and on neighboring lands managed by other
agencies. Among others, those standards include the U.S.
National Vegetation Classiﬁcation System (USNVC) and the Federal
Geographic Data Committee spatial data transfer and metadata
Understanding the distribution and condition of plant
communities on the INL Site will support the Conservation
Management Plan through habitat mapping, development of Habitat
Suitability Indices and will help to focus surveys for sensitive
species. Additional beneﬁts to land management at the INL Site
include guiding revegetation and weed management efforts,
increasing the efﬁciency of assessing environmental impacts and
siting plots for research, and inventory and monitoring
activities. It will also serve as an important background
database for research on the National Environmental Research
The overall goal of vegetation community classiﬁcation and
mapping is to assess the distribution of plant communities on
the INL Site. Speciﬁc objectives are to:
Determine the community types present on the INL Site
Determine the distribution of those community types on
the landscape, and
Conduct an accuracy assessment of the resulting map.
The approach planned includes two parallel processes (plant
community classiﬁcation and delineating mapping units) that are
brought together in the ﬁnal step to produce the map.
The plant community classiﬁcation process includes collection of
new ﬁeld data from many locations representing distinct
community types. The ﬁnal classiﬁcations will be based on these
ﬁeld data analyzed using ordination and cluster analysis. These
results will then be cross-walked to the USNVC vegetation
The delineation and mapping process begins by collecting new
color-infrared aerial imagery in a digital format. That imagery
is then processed using image analysis software and other
techniques to deﬁne areas of similarity in the imagery.
The next step will be to bring these two processes together
by linking the community classiﬁcations to the mapping units
derived from the aerial imagery. It is important to note that in
some cases there may be more than one association linked to a
single mapping unit and vice-versa. This allows for a
consideration of vegetation associations that occur as a mosaic
at a ﬁner scale than can be delineated using this process.
Finally, we will conduct an accuracy assessment by selecting
sites from the new map and collecting ﬁeld data at those sites.
The ﬁnal products will include a report describing the plant
community classes existing on the INL Site and a GIS database of
plant communities on the INL Site at multiple geographic scales
suitable for use with the Conservation Management Plan.
The only activity scheduled in 2007 was the
collection of new aerial imagery. Due to the extremely dry
conditions across the INL Site this spring, the originally
scheduled image acquisition was cancelled and postponed
until spring of 2008. Following a few days of heavy
consistent rainfall in June, we visited representative
vegetation communities across the INL Site and determined
that the inﬂux of moisture resulted in a response in the
vegetation that would likely assist with image classiﬁcations.
On June 15, color-infrared digital imagery was collected at
1 m ground sample distance across the entire INL Site.
We began Quality Assurance/Quality Control
(QA/QC) assessments of the imagery to determine that it met
our data quality requirements. Following the initial spatial
accuracy assessment, the imagery appears to have about 1 m
or less horizontal accuracy.
Because the project is in the initial data
collection phase, results are not yet ready to be reported.
Plans for Continuation
In 2008, we plan to begin the two major
efforts of classiﬁcation and delineation. Using pre-existing
data a preliminary vegetation community classiﬁcation,
necessary for the ﬁeld data collection, is expected to be
completed in May 2008. Field data collection is expected to
occur in June, July, and August of 2008. Data analysis to
deﬁne community classiﬁcation is expected to begin in the
fall of 2008.
The delineation effort is expected to start
in the spring of 2008 and should be completed by spring
2009. Further reﬁnements and additional delineations may
occur following the accuracy assessment to produce the ﬁnal
Linking the plant community classiﬁcation to
the delineated map is expected to occur in winter of 2009
with ﬁeld accuracy assessments to occur in spring and summer
of 2009. The ﬁnal report and project completion is expected
Publications, Theses, Reports, etc.
Because the project has just begun, no
publications or reports have been produced.
Investigators and Affiliations
Roger D. Blew, Ecologist,
Environmental Surveillance, Education and Research Program, S.M.
Stoller Corp, Idaho Falls, Idaho
Amy D. Forman, Plant
Ecologist, Environmental Surveillance, Education and Research
S.M. Stoller Corp, Idaho Falls, Idaho
Jeremy P. Shive, GIS/Remote
Sensing Specialist and Wildlife Biologist, Environmental
Surveillance, Education and Research Program, S.M. Stoller Corp,
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Ofﬁce.