Geographic Analysis and Monitoring Program

U.S. Geological Survey
Scientific Investigations Map 2962

Land-Cover Change in the Southern Lake Tahoe Basin, California and Nevada, 1940-2002

By Christian G. Raumann


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The Lake Tahoe basin has been subject to significant landscape-altering human activity since the mid-1850s; in particular, widespread timber harvest from the 1850s to 1920s and urban development from the 1950s to the present. The consequences of changes such as impacted water quality, degraded biotic communities, and increased fire hazard resulting from modern activity have prompted rising levels of concern for the ecological integrity of the region. The goal of this project is to map, quantify, and describe the spatial and temporal distribution and variability of historical changes in land use and land cover in the southern Lake Tahoe basin for the period from 1940 to 2002 in an effort to establish an understanding of regional landscape change.

This map shows areas of land-use/land-cover change in a 279-km2 portion of the Lake Tahoe basin identified using change-detection analysis of multitemporal land-use/land-cover datasets for four dates (1940, 1969, 1987, and 2002), which yielded three periods for analysis. Land use/land cover was mapped using manual (visual) interpretation techniques in a geographic information system (GIS) from multiple imagery sources: black-and-white digital orthophotos for 1940 and 1969, natural-color digital orthophotos for 1987, and IKONOS multispectral satellite imagery for 2002. The landscape was classified using a 0.4-hectare (1-acre) minimum mapping unit and a hierarchical classification system. Impervious-surface data was derived directly from the 2002 IKONOS imagery on a per-pixel basis using digital image processing and GIS data integration.

Download this map as a 32" x 48.5" PDF file (sim2962.pdf; 54 MB)

For questions about the content of this report, contact Christian Raumann (

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