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Harvard Forest Data Archive


Land Cover on the Elizabeth Islands, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket 1938

Related Publications


  • hf368-01: Elizabeth Islands, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket land cover, 1938


  • Lead: Glenn Motzkin, Brian Hall
  • Investigators: David Foster, Julie Hall, Spencer Meyer, Janice Stone
  • Contact: Information Manager
  • Start date: 1938
  • End date: 1938
  • Status: completed
  • Location: Elizabeth Islands (MA), Martha’s Vineyard (MA), Nantucket (MA)
  • Latitude: +41.23 to +41.53
  • Longitude: -70.988 to -69.905
  • Elevation: 0 to 92 meter
  • Taxa:
  • Release date: 2021
  • Revisions:
  • EML file: knb-lter-hfr.368.3
  • DOI: digital object identifier
  • EDI: data package
  • DataONE: data package
  • Related links:
  • Study type: historical
  • Research topic: biodiversity studies; conservation and management; historical and retrospective studies
  • LTER core area: disturbance
  • Keywords: geographic information systems, land cover, land use, management, maps, spatial vector
  • Abstract:

    The widespread influence of land use and natural disturbance on population, community, and landscape dynamics and the long-term legacy of disturbance on modern ecosystems requires that a historical, broad-scale perspective become an integral part of modern ecological studies and conservation assessment and planning. In previous studies, the Harvard Forest Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program has developed an integrated approach of paleoecological and historical reconstruction, meteorological modeling, air photo interpretation, GIS analyses, and field studies of vegetation and soils, to address fundamental ecological questions concerning the rates, direction, and causes of vegetation change, to evaluate controls over modern species and community distributions and landscape patterns, and to provide critical background for conservation and restoration planning. In the current study, we extend this approach to investigate the link between landscape history and the abundance, distribution, and dynamics of species, communities and landscapes of the Cape Cod to Long Island coastal region, including the islands of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Block Island. The study region includes many areas of high conservation priority that are linked geographically, historically, and ecologically.

    This dataset includes a land cover GIS layer created from aerial photographs from 1938. Janice Stone interpreted the photos onto acetates which were then redrawn onto USGS topographic maps using a zoom transfer scope to reduce edge distortion from the photographs. The landcover polygons were then digitized into a GIS. As 1938 is near the midpoint between the peak of 19th century agricultural land clearance and the modern plant communities of the region, this data provides valuable information on changing landscape characteristics and vegetation successional patterns which shape the modern landscape.

  • Methods:

    The land cover GIS layer in this dataset was created from aerial photographs taken in 1938, purchased from the National Archives and permanently archived at Harvard Forest. At the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Janice Stone interpreted the photos onto acetates using a mirror stereoscope. Dynamic barrier beaches and spits at the coastline were not always drawn due to their temporary nature and difficulty in georeferencing. The smallest delineated unit is approximately 3000 m2. The delineations were redrawn onto USGS topographic maps using a zoom transfer scope to reduce edge distortion from the photographs. Roads were used as control features. The landcover polygons were then digitized into ArcView GIS as a shapefile. The original aerial photos were compared to the digitized layers to check for polygon omissions and overlapping polygons were removed. The shapefile was then refined using EditTools Version 3.6, an ArcView GIS extension.

    Attribute table fields: LULCCO = landcover code; NOTES = notes; Type_grp = less specific type group code; Text = text description of LULCCO

    LULCCO landcover codes: AA = Tilled/plowed land and active pastureland. Some pasture that seems inactive (more shrubs, less clear fence lines) may be included with GR; GR = “Native” grassland (less than 30% shrub). May include some abandoned or inactive pastureland; GR-D = Grassland on dunes; HE = Heathland; SO = Scrub oak shrubland; SH = Shrubland. May be tall shrubs, or just not clearly HE or SO. Some may be wetland, or very short trees; MX = Mix of shrubland or heathland with grassland. At least 31% of the lesser amount, but less than 70% of the greater amount; FS = Forest, Coniferous; FH = Forest, Deciduous; FM = Forest, Mixed coniferous and deciduous forest; FH/SO = approximately 30-70% deciduous forest with scrub oak understory; FH/SH = approximately 30-70% deciduous forest scattered over shrub understory; FS/SH = approximately 30-70% coniferous forest scattered over shrub understory (most commonly pitch pine-scrub oak); W = Obvious interior or isolated wetlands or water bodies. Ocean and bays are not labeled unless they extend into interior photos; DL = Residential, commercial, industrial, and other developed land, including disturbed areas such as sand and gravel pits. Does not include agriculture; SPECIAL = Other, see “Notes” field of attribute table; O = Openland, not mapped on Martha’s Vineyard.

  • Use:

    This dataset is released to the public under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (No Rights Reserved). Please keep the dataset creators informed of any plans to use the dataset. Consultation with the original investigators is strongly encouraged. Publications and data products that make use of the dataset should include proper acknowledgement.

  • Citation:

    Motzkin G, Hall B. 2021. Land Cover on the Elizabeth Islands, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket 1938. Harvard Forest Data Archive: HF368 (v.3). Environmental Data Initiative:

Detailed Metadata

hf368-01: Elizabeth Islands, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket land cover, 1938

  • Compression: zip
  • Format: Esri shapefile
  • Type: vector GIS