Coastal zone managers and researchers often require detailed information regarding emergent marsh vegetation types (that is, fresh, intermediate, brackish, and saline) for modeling habitat capacities and needs of marsh dependent taxa (such as waterfowl and alligator). Detailed information on the extent and distribution of emergent marsh vegetation types throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico coast has been historically unavailable. In response, the U.S. Geological Survey, in collaboration with the Gulf Coast Joint Venture, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Ducks Unlimited, Inc., and the Texas A&M University-Kingsville, produced a classification of emergent marsh vegetation types from Corpus Christi Bay, Texas, to Perdido Bay, Alabama.
This study incorporates about 9,800 ground reference locations collected via helicopter surveys in coastal wetland areas. Decision-tree analyses were used to classify emergent marsh vegetation types by using ground reference data from helicopter vegetation surveys and independent variables such as multitemporal satellite-based multispectral imagery from 2009 to 2011, bare-earth digital elevation models based on airborne light detection and ranging (lidar), alternative contemporary land cover classifications, and other spatially explicit variables. Image objects were created from 2010 National Agriculture Imagery Program color-infrared aerial photography. The final classification is a 10-meter raster dataset that was produced by using a majority filter to classify image objects according to the marsh vegetation type covering the majority of each image object. The classification is dated 2010 because the year is both the midpoint of the classified multitemporal satellite-based imagery (2009–11) and the date of the high-resolution airborne imagery that was used to develop image objects. The seamless classification produced through this work can be used to help develop and refine conservation efforts for priority natural resources. This specific classification is an alternative product developed for Texas that includes three marsh types (that is, fresh, intermediate-brackish, and saline). For more information, please see the U.S. Geological Survey Investigations Map titled "Delineation of marsh types from Corpus Christi Bay, Texas, to Perdido Bay, Alabama, in 2010." (http://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/sim3336).