Question: How can the U.S. National Vegetation Classification (USNVC) serve as an effective tool for classifying and mapping vegetation, and inform assessments and monitoring?
Location: Voyageurs National Park, northern Minnesota, U.S.A and environs. The park contains 54243 ha of terrestrial habitat in the sub-boreal region of North America.
Methods: We classified and mapped the natural vegetation using the USNVC, with ‘alliance’ and ‘association’ as base units. We compiled 259 classification plots and 1251 accuracy assessment test plots. Both plot and type ordinations were used to analyse vegetation and environmental patterns. Color infrared aerial photography (1:15840 scale) was used for mapping. Polygons were manually drawn, then transferred into digital form. Classification and mapping products are stored in publicly available databases. Past fire and logging events were used to assess distribution of forest types.
Results and Discussion: Ordination and cluster analyses confirmed 49 associations and 42 alliances, with three associations ranked as globally vulnerable to extirpation. Ordination provided a useful summary of vegetation and ecological gradients. Overall map accuracy was 82.4%. Pinus banksiana - Picea mariana forests were less frequent in areas unburned since the 1930s.
Conclusion: The USNVC provides a consistent ecological tool for summarizing and mapping vegetation. The products provide a baseline for assessing forests and wetlands, including fire management. The standardized classification and map units provide local to continental perspectives on park resources through linkages to state, provincial, and national classifications in the U.S. and Canada, and to NatureServe's Ecological Systems classification.