Existing Vegetation

Existing Vegetation

The Institute for Natural Resources has long been involved in mapping and modeling Oregon's vegetation and habitats. The following resources map existing vegetation at the time of their production (check the descriptions for the year).


Forest Landscape Mapping 

INR collaborates with a variety of partners to develop maps of vegetation and other important landscape characteristics. Our products range from mid-scale maps that extend across multiple states, to more project-tailored data with smaller geographic footprints. These data have been instrumental to land managers and have enabled critical ecological research.

Mid-scale existing vegetation mapping provides information about current vegetation composition and structure at the resolution and scale needed to inform a range of conservation, management, and planning activities. INR’s vegetation mapping team uses a variant of nearest neighbor imputation to create mid-scale maps that provide rich data depth and wall-to-wall coverage for all land ownerships within target regions. These maps support collaborative landscape management across administrative boundaries by providing information that can be used to inform planning, from estimating timber supplies, carbon stocks, and potential fuels for wildlands fires, to understanding the extent and distribution of habitat for plant and animal species, to modeling future landscape conditions under alternative climate and disturbance scenarios.

Key strengths of INR’s mid-scale existing vegetation maps include the following:

  • Rich data depth. Our imputation maps are linked to many attributes that provide detailed information about vegetation characteristics including species composition, plant functional groups, community type, forest structure, and more.
  • Flexibility. INR works with mapping partners to create vegetation classifications and attributes tailored to specific management and planning needs. Because of the rich depth of data linked to each map unit, new summary variables can be created or reformulated after the maps are made.
  • Suitability for landscape-level assessment. Because INR’s imputation maps are assessed for bias at multiple scales and maintain covariance between modeled attributes, they are well-suited to landscape-level assessments and summaries.
  • Updatable. Maps can be more rapidly updated using modeled information based on recent disturbances as an alternative to recomputing the whole map.

Over the past two decades, INR has collaborated with the USDA Forest Service Southwestern Region (R3), Pacific Northwest Region (R6), and Intermountain Region (R4) to develop existing vegetation maps of Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and parts of Idaho and Wyoming. Since their creation, our imputation maps have significantly improved project implementation and planning by supporting management and shared stewardship across all land ownerships. See the list of projects on our Forest Landscapes: Landscape Mapping page.


Integrated Landscape Assessment Project

The ILAP project produced a multitude of habitat and forest structure maps across Oregon. Washington, Arizona, and New Mexico. You can find these vegetation data, maps, models, and analyses products on the Western Landscapes topic page of the Oregon Explorer


LEMMA Forest and Vegetation Mapping Products

You can find additional maps and data related to forest structure, carbon monitoring, and fuels at the LEMMA project website, a collaboration between the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, and the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University (OSU), based at the Forestry Sciences Lab on the OSU campus.


NW ReGAP Ecological Systems Map of Oregon

In the 2000s INR's Oregon Biodiversity Information Center (ORBIC) received funding from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) to integrate all available 1:24,000 vegetation maps and coverages. Previously, the only statewide vegetation or land coverages available for Oregon had been the two OR-GAP coverages described below. ORBIC and OR-GAP has worked hard to link all existing vegetation coverages to the National Vegetation Classification System. The newest version of the map, a grid of ecological systems throughout Oregon (downloadable zip folder), was created in 2010.


Two statewide vegetation and land cover GIS maps were created as part of OR-GAP in Oregon. The first was produced in 1992 by Jimmy Kagan and Steve Caicco. This map was done using available data, with polygons hand drawn and digitized on 1:250,000 satellite images. This existing vegetation cover and the associated vegetation manual (downloadable zip folder) are available from the Oregon Geospatial Office.

The second OR-GAP coverage is the 1998 Statewide Existing Vegetation and Landcover map (downloadable zip folder). For this, OR-GAP contracted Chris Kiilsgaard of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This map was completed using 30 meter TM imagery and was used in the analysis for the final OR-GAP report. The vegetation types have also been crosswalked to wildlife habitats.


National Park Service Vegetation Maps

National Park Service Vegetation Maps 

In conjunction with NatureServe, INR made remote sensing-based vegetation maps for the major national parks in the Pacific Northwest.

Detecting climate change impacts on the distribution of vegetation requires an accurate map of baseline conditions made using a repeatable methodology. The National Park Service Inventory & Monitoring Program has embarked on a major vegetation mapping project for Mount Rainier, Olympic, North Cascades, and Lewis and Clark National Parks.

These vegetation maps used the revised National Vegetation Classification System, and were targeted to the Alliance level, roughly equivalent to dominant canopy species with some major types further differentiated by temperature or moisture modifiers. Multitemporal Landsat TM imagery, supplemented by color-infrared aerial photography, LiDAR elevation and vegetation height data where available, and extensive field training data collection, formed the basis of the mapping, which was performed using Random Forests data mining techniques.

The new maps provide a baseline against which to measure vegetation change and will also provide useful for studies of the impacts of climate change on a variety of vegetation processes, including carbon dynamics and disturbance.

The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park map and report were completed in 2012.

Final products for the other parks will be available from the National Park Service website at NCCN Vegetation Classification and Mapping Reports and at INR Publications.