Home Archived December 11, 2018

The USGS Land Cover Institute (LCI)

  Iowa Land Cover
Capital Des Moines
Largest City Des Moines
Area Ranked 26th
Total 55,869.36 sq mi
Population Ranked 30th
Total (2000) 2,926,324
Density 52.4/sq mi
Highest point Hawkeye Point 1,670 ft (509 m)
Lowest point Mississippi River 480 ft (146 m)
Iowa Land Cover

Iowa consists of gently undulating hills mixed with prairie and agricultural land. The landscape is marked by the Loess Hills on the western border and the Driftless Area to the northeast. The Loess Hills border the Missouri River valley for about 200 miles. Although loess is primarily a fertile soil, the Loess Hills are not cultivated because the hills are steep making accessibility by agricultural equipment difficult. They are also prone to significant erosion processes. The Driftless Area of northeastern Iowa is more rugged than the other regions of the state because it was not affected by the last glacial epoch. The region is characterized by large bluffs and irregular hills that are home to a number of rare animal and plant species that are found nowhere else, such as the Pleistocene snail and the Northern monkshood. These rare species are protected in the Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge. The Mississippi River forms the eastern boundary of Iowa; the western boundary is formed by the Missouri River south of Sioux City and by the Big Sioux River north of Sioux City.
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.