Coastal Land Cover and Change

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Aerial view of rocky cliffs on the water. Grass and trees are on the top of the cliffs.

“Land cover” represents a foundational data set used to address a wide range of coastal management issues, from flooding risk and natural infrastructure assessments to policy evaluation and land use planning. For decades, NOAA’s Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP) has provided accurate, consistent coastal land cover and change information for the coastal portions of the U.S.

Use the information on this page to access and understand how to use these remotely sensed data effectively.

Get the Data

  • Tool

    Land Cover Atlas

    This online data viewer provides user-friendly access to coastal land cover and land cover change information. The tool summarizes general change trends (such as forest losses or new development), without the need for GIS software, and provides tables, maps, and reports to enhance communication and decision-making.

  • Data

    C-CAP Regional Land Cover and Change

    Produced at a 30-meter resolution for the coastal areas of the contiguous U.S. These data are updated every five years from multiple dates of remotely sensed Landsat imagery and ancillary information. Most areas have 20 years of data, with some areas having up to 40 years. The data are appropriate for use down to the typical county level, but only as a screening-level indicator of conditions over smaller geographies.

  • Data

    C-CAP Derived Land Cover – BETA

    Produced through entirely automated methods at 10- and 30-meter resolutions, for select project areas within the contiguous U.S. These data provide a more spatially detailed land cover than that seen in our regional product line, but not as detailed as our high-resolution products. They have fewer land-cover categories and are not refined to the same quality level or accuracy as the other operational data sets.

  • Data

    C-CAP High-Resolution Land Cover and Change

    Produced at a 1- to 2.4-meter resolution for select project areas within the contiguous U.S., Hawaii, and U.S. territories in the Pacific and Caribbean, with additional areas being added as completed. Multiple dates of data are available in some locations. These data are applicable at the local level, and can support site-based management or planning decisions.

  • Data

    C-CAP Salt Marsh Habitat

    Produced at less than 1-meter resolution for select project areas. These products focus on more detailed categorization of marsh species and features. Current data holdings are limited to the states of Rhode Island and New Hampshire, but additional areas may be added if funding becomes available. These data can be used to evaluate specific marsh locations, as well as conditions across the area.

More than Just Data

  • Data

    Tidal Marsh Resilience to Sea Level Rise

    Represents the relative ranking of salt marsh resilience to impacts from sea level rise, and other compounding stressors, for tidal watersheds within the contiguous U.S. Produced using a combination of data and modeling methods at the 30-meter resolution. The data can be used to identify salt marsh areas most vulnerable, or adaptable, to sea level rise at the national, regional, or state levels.

  • Data

    Sea Level Rise Wetland Impacts and Migration

    Represents the possible future condition of coastal wetlands in the face of various sea level rise scenarios. Produced using both regional and high-resolution C-CAP land cover, as well as the best available lidar-derived elevations and local sea level information. This information can be used to estimate losses, changes, and potential migration areas of future wetlands in order to help direct conservation, restoration, and monitoring efforts.

  • Data

    C-CAP Wetland Potential Layer

    Represents the likelihood of an area to be, or to have been, a wetland. Produced using a combination of data and modeling methods at a 30-meter resolution for the coastal areas of the contiguous U.S. The data have been used to help in the accuracy of mapping wetlands within our regional land cover products, but may also be useful in identifying areas of historic wetlands that could be a target for restoration activities.

Tools You Can Use

  • Tool

    Coastal County Snapshots

    This online tool provides managers and citizens with easy-to-understand charts and graphs that describe complex coastal data (including land cover) concerning issues of flooding and resilience. Land cover data provide information related to flood exposure and the context of past change trends in those areas.

  • Tool

    Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper

    This online visualization tool supports communities that are assessing their risks and vulnerabilities to coastal flooding hazards. The tool creates a collection of user-defined maps that show the people, places, and natural resources exposed to coastal flooding. Land cover data provide important information related to infrastructure exposure and ecosystem protective services.

  • Tool

    Sea Level Rise Viewer

    This web-based mapping tool can be used to visualize community-level impacts from coastal flooding or sea level rise (up to 10 feet above average high tides). Land cover data provide the basis for the wetland loss and migration modeling within the tool.

  • Training – Online Guide

    How to Use Land Cover Data as a Water Quality Indicator

    This step-by-step guide describes how land cover data can be analyzed to assess several water quality indicators. Included with each step is a link to a web-based map that highlights the land cover information explored, as well as a link to a document that describes the data and analysis used to create those maps.

  • Tool


    This GIS-based screening tool helps assess changes in water quality resulting from different land use management and climate scenarios.

Learn from Others

  • Story from the Field

    Creating a Comprehensive Plan for Resilient Salt Marshes in New Hampshire

    See how high-resolution, standardized salt marsh habitat mapping is driving comprehensive planning in the State of New Hampshire. The mapping is helping to determine where restoration, experimental science, land conservation, and land use planning can be most effective in protecting the salt marshes based on current condition, vulnerability, and adaptation potential.

  • Story from the Field

    Assessing the Environmental Health of Streams in Washington

    See how Snohomish County, Washington, is using high-resolution land cover to inform its analysis of stream health, protect healthy waters, and improve impaired ones.

  • Story from the Field

    Using the Land Cover Atlas to Protect Watershed Health from Overdevelopment

    See how the Guam Coastal Management Program uses C-CAP data and the Land Cover Atlas to help mitigate impacts to watershed health and make recommendations related to specific permit requests.

  • Story from the Field

    Inspiring Citizens to Protect and Preserve Galveston Bay in Texas

    See how land cover informs the production of the Galveston Bay Report Card and how that annual assessment of the health of Galveston Bay provides specific ways citizens can take specific actions in their backyards and how groups have volunteered to restore salt marshes in the watershed.

Additional Resources