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Open-File Report 2006–1002

The 20th-Century Topographic Survey as Source Data for Long-Term Landscape Studies at Local and Regional Scales

By Dalia Varanka

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (105 KB)Abstract

Historical topographic maps are the only systematically collected data resource covering the entire nation for long-term landscape change studies over the 20th century for geographical and environmental research. The paper discusses aspects of the historical U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps that present constraints on the design of a database for such studies. Problems involved in this approach include locating the required maps, understanding land feature classification differences between topographic vs. land use/land cover maps, the approximation of error between different map editions of the same area, and the identification of true changes on the landscape between time periods. Suggested approaches to these issues are illustrated using an example of such a study by the author.

First posted 2006

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Suggested citation:

Varanka, Dalia, 2006, The 20th-century topographic survey as source data for long-term landscape studies at local and regional scales: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2006–1002, 11 p., available only online at

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