Home Archived December 11, 2018

The USGS Land Cover Institute (LCI)

  Illinois Land Cover
Capital Springfield
Largest City Chicago
Area Ranked 25th
Total 55,583.58 sq mi
Population Ranked 5th
Total (2000) 12,419,293
Density 223.4/sq mi
Highest point Charles Mound 1,235 ft (376 m)
Lowest point Mississippi River 279 ft (85 m)
Illinois Land Cover

Illinois consists of three main land regions: the Central Plains, the Shawnee Hills, and the Gulf Coastal Plain. The Central Plains region is the largest area in the State and it can be further divided into the Great Lakes Plains, the Driftless Plains, and the Till Plains. The Great Lakes Plains, located along the Lake Michigan coastline, are characterized by Chicago’s expansive urban development amongst rolling hills with deciduous and coniferous forest cover. The Driftless Plains, located in the northwestern corner of the State, are known for the State’s highest elevations and deepest valleys. Cultivated crops and pastures are the predominant land cover types in the Driftless Plains. The rich fertile soils of the Till Plains are the largest portion of the Central Plains region in the State, and are home to Illinois’s most profitable agricultural commodity, corn. Just south of the Till Plains, the Shawnee Hills stretch across the State, and are characterized by higher elevations of hills and valleys. Deciduous and coniferous forests, pasture, and small rivers are the dominant land features found in this region. The Gulf Coastal Plain is located in the southernmost tip of Illinois and is characterized by deciduous and coniferous forest, cultivated crops, pasture land cover, and low relative relief.
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.