Mapping program shows Sonoma County vegetation and habitat in a new way

August 24, 2017

Posted in: News Articles

Mapping program shows Sonoma County vegetation and habitat in a new way

Heather Bailey | Sonoma West Times & News | Aug 22, 2017

A new map depicting the vegetation, habitat and topography of Sonoma County is now available at a level of detail never before seen, thanks to a hefty grant from NASA and the dedication of multiple stakeholders in the county.

The Sonoma County Vegetation Mapping and LiDAR Program, or more succinctly, the Veg Map, “is a 5-year program to map Sonoma County’s topography, physical and biotic features and diverse plant communities and habitats,” according to its website. LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method used to examine the surface of the earth. An aircraft flew over the county, crisscrossing the land while shooting lasers at the surface below, which were then reflected back up to the plane for the purpose of gathering data.

According to a statement from the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the Veg Map provides a fine-scale representation of all the natural vegetation in Sonoma County. It represents 83 different vegetation communities and land cover types, with vegetation cover identified for areas 400 square feet to one acre in size.

The map was created using a combination of fieldwork, aerial photo interpretation and computer-based modeling and machine learning. It is based on a vegetation key developed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) for the Sonoma Veg Map Program. Prior to this map, the best available maps for Sonoma County only represented 60 vegetation communities with areas mapped to two and a half acre polygons.

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