USGS - Science for a Changing World

Techniques and Methods 2A–1

General Classification Handbook for Floodplain Vegetation in Large River Systems

By Jennifer J. Dieck and Larry R. Robinson


This handbook describes the Long Term Resource Monitoring Program (LTRMP) General Wetland Vegetation Classification System developed as part of a multi-state and Federal partnership for the Upper Mississippi River System. This classification system consists of 31 general classes and has been used to create systemic land cover/land use maps throughout this diverse river system. In addition, it describes the evolution of the General Wetland Vegetation Classification System, discusses the process of creating a map, and describes each of the 31 general classes in detail. This handbook also acts as a pictorial guide to illustrate each of the general classes as they may appear in the field, as well as on color-infrared aerial photographs.


Development of the Classification System
Relation to Other Classification Systems
References Cited
Appendix 1. Using the General Wetland Vegetation Classification System to Describe and Monitor Land Cover
1. Acquisition of Aerial Photographs
2. Field Reconnaissance
3. Photointerpretation
4. Automation
5. Accuracy Assessment
Appendix 2. General Wetland Vegetation Classification System
Open Water (OW)
Submersed Vegetation (SV)
Rooted Floating Aquatics (RFA)
Deep Marsh Annual (DMA)
Deep Marsh Perennial (DMP)
Shallow Marsh Annual (SMA)
Shallow Marsh Perennial (SMP)
Sedge Meadow (SM)
Wet Meadow (WM)
Deep Marsh Shrub (DMS)
Shallow Marsh Shrub (SMS)
Wet Meadow Shrub (WMS)
Scrub-Shrub (SS)
Wooded Swamp (WS)
Floodplain Forest (FF)
Populus Community (PC)
Salix Community (SC)
Lowland Forest (LF)
Agriculture (AG)
Conifer (CN)
Plantation (PN)
Upland Forest (UF)
Developed (DV)
Grassland (GR)
Levee (LV)
Pasture (PS)
Roadside (RD)
Mudflat (MUD)
Sand Bar (SB)
Sand (SD)
No Photo Coverage (NPC)
Appendix 3. Classification Key for the General Wetland Vegetation Classification System
Appendix 4. Predominant Species and Common 31 General Classes Associated with the Genera Referred to in this Handbook

This report is available online in Portable Document Format (PDF). If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader, it is available for free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

Download the report (PDF, 27.9 MB)

Document Accessibility: Adobe Systems Incorporated has information about PDFs and the visually impaired. This information provides tools to help make PDF files accessible. These tools convert Adobe PDF documents into HTML or ASCII text, which then can be read by a number of common screen-reading programs that synthesize text as audible speech. In addition, an accessible version of Acrobat Reader 5.0 for Windows (English only), which contains support for screen readers, is available. These tools and the accessible reader may be obtained free from Adobe at Adobe Access.

For additional information contact:

Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
U.S. Geological Survey
2630 Fanta Reed Road
La Crosse, Wisconsin 54603

Please visit for more information about USGS activities in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

FirstGov button  Take Pride in America button