Home Archived December 11, 2018

The USGS Land Cover Institute (LCI)

  California Land Cover
Capital Sacramento
Largest City Los Angeles
Area Ranked 3rd
Total 155,959.34 sq mi
Population Ranked 1st
Total (2000) 33,871,648
Density 217.2/sq mi
Highest point Mount Whitney 14,491 ft (4,416m)
Lowest point Death Valley -282 ft (-86 m)
California Land Cover

California is composed of eight main regions. The Klamath Mountains are located in the northwest corner of the State and are composed of heavily forested mountains. The Coastal Ranges, located along the Pacific Coast, are characterized by their forest-covered mountains separated by fertile agricultural valleys and interspersed with urban development. Running north to south in eastern California is the Sierra Nevada mountain range. This region hosts the State’s highest elevations and dense evergreen forest cover. The Central Valley is located between the Coastal Ranges and the Sierra Nevada mountain range and is California’s most productive agricultural area. Cultivated crop land is the predominant land cover in this region. In northeastern California, the Cascade Mountains have extensive forest cover. The Basin and Range region of the State is composed of extensive shrub lands amongst numerous desert landscapes. Several low mountain ranges are located in the southwestern corner of the State in the vicinity of Los Angeles and San Diego, and are composed of a mix of urban, shrub, and forest land cover types.
The Importance of Land Cover Information

Scientists working in the USGS are among the leaders in the study of land cover. Land cover refers to the vegetation and artificial structures that cover the land's surface. Examples of land cover include trees, grass, crops, wetlands, water, buildings, and pavement. As scientists study land cover, they are also studying land use. Land use involves human activities that take place on the land such as farming, grazing, logging, and recreation. Land cover scientists use satellite images and other remotely sensed imagery to assess national and global land cover characteristics and monitor how - and how rapidly - land cover changes. They also study the economic impacts of land cover change as well as its effects on water quality, the spread of invasive species, habitat and biodiversity loss, climate variability, and other environmental factors. Scientists require up-to-date land cover information to accurately understand current conditions and to assess the extent and impacts of land cover change on the Earth system.