Home Archived December 11, 2018

The USGS Land Cover Institute (LCI)

  Colorado Land Cover
Capital Denver
Largest City Denver
Area Ranked 8th
Total 103,717.53 sq mi
Population Ranked 24th
Total (2000) 4,301,261
Density 41.5/sq mi
Highest point Mount Elbert 14,433 ft (4,399 m)
Lowest point Arikaree River 3,315 ft (1,011 m)
Colorado Land Cover

Colorado is characterized by three major geographic regions: the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado Plateau, and the Great Plains. The Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau dominate the western two-thirds of the State and the Great Plains comprise the remaining eastern third of the State. Natural grass and shrub lands once covered Colorado's plains but today are less dominant because of their conversions to farming and urbanization. Grasses and shrubs found in eastern Colorado include buffalo grass, blue grama, western wheatgrass, needle grass, sagebrush, and cactus. Forests cover a third of Colorado and most are under Federal control. The majority of forest cover is located in the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains. Western Colorado's most common trees are conifer species, such as cedar, fir, ponderosa pine, blue spruce, and the deciduous quaking aspen. In contrast, the Great Plains have scattered groves of cottonwoods, peach-leaf willows, and other prairie species found along riparian areas.
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.