Coastal Change Analysis Program Regional Land Cover

Contributing Partners:

Get Data

The Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP) produces a nationally standardized database of land cover and land change information for the coastal regions of the U.S. C-CAP products provide inventories of coastal intertidal areas, wetlands, and adjacent uplands with the goal of monitoring these habitats by updating the land cover maps every five years. C-CAP products are developed using multiple dates of remotely sensed imagery and consist of raster-based land cover maps for each date of analysis, as well as a file that highlights what changes have occurred between these dates and where the changes were located.

NOAA also produces high resolution C-CAP land cover products, for select geographies.  These products focus on bringing NOAA’s national mapping framework to the local level, by providing complimentary data, at a more detailed resolution to compliment regional C-CAP land cover.

Data Specifications

  • Area of Coverage: Coastal intertidal areas, wetlands, and adjacent uplands of the contiguous U.S., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands territories
  • Date(s) Available: 1985, 1992, 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011 (vary by location)
  • Format: IMG, GeoTIFF
  • Resolution/Scale: 30 meter pixels (1:100,000)
  • Minimum Mapping Unit: 30 meter pixels (1/4 acres)
  • Accuracy: Developed to meet an 85 percent overall target accuracy specification but can vary by geography and date.


  • Provides the "coastal expression" of the National Land Cover Database (NLCD), and contributes to the Earth Cover layer of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).
  • Produced through documented, repeatable procedures using standard data sources and include extensive field sampling, validation, and standard quality-control review procedures.
  • Include twenty-nine categories of land cover, giving particular emphasis to more detailed, up-to-date wetland information than is currently available in other national land cover products.
  • NOAA works with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and several other federal programs, through the Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium (MRLC) to produce a consistent, comprehensive national land cover product.

Notes and Limitations: C-CAP data sets are not jurisdictional or intended for use in litigation. While efforts have been made to ensure that these data are accurate and reliable within the limits of current technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) cannot assume liability for any damages or misrepresentations caused by inaccuracies in the data, or as a result of the data to be used on a particular system. NOAA makes no warranty, expressed or implied, nor does the fact of distribution constitute such a warranty.

The intended use is in identifying regional landscape patterns and major functional niches (habitat), and for environmental impact assessment, urban planning, and zoning applications. C-CAP data will not identify individual species. This is a national and regional data set that should be used only as a screening tool for very local or site-specific management decisions. Small features and changes should be verified with a higher-resolution data source.

Story Maps

C-CAP Land Cover Classifications
This interactive story map provides examples of locations and photographs for each of the C-CAP land cover types.

Stories from the Field

Helping Minnesota Residents Understand Local Flooding Issues and Potential Solutions
A community open house helped local constituents understand flood-related impacts and costs as well as how to implement green infrastructure techniques to reduce those impacts.

Sharing Green Infrastructure Solutions with Residents and Business Owners in Ohio
A task force helped local constituents share ideas on flood reduction, visualize how to reduce flood-related impacts, and create a plan to implement green infrastructure.

Visualizing Locally Relevant Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the Island of Saipan
The Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer illustrated informational pieces and their impact on resilience planning efforts, and it identified existing gaps in scientific data and planning information.

Planning for Resilient Coastal Communities in New York
The Coastal Inundation Mapping training, Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk approach, and other NOAA resources aided New York partners in mapping and assessing Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy impacts and planning for long-term recovery and resilience.

Providing Easily Accessible Maps to Aid Ecosystem Restoration in the Gulf of Mexico and Coastal Change Analysis Program land cover data are helping to inform ecosystem restoration planning in the Gulf of Mexico.

Understanding Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise in Southeast Florida
Data from the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer helped in the development of policies and programs to address sea level rise.

Integrating Decision Support Tools for Land Use Planning in Coastal Texas
Three decision-support tools were used to demonstrate the innovative application and integration of tools for land-use planning and ecosystem management.

Assessing Land-Based Threats to Coral Reef Habitats in Laolao Bay, CNMI
OpenNSPECT and the Habitat Priority Planner were used to assess land based threats and prioritize restoration areas.

Modeling Sediment Yield in Hawaii
N-SPECT was used to estimate the amount of sediment transported to Pelekane Bay.

Driving Conservation along South Carolina's Coast
The Habitat Priority Planner and participatory mapping techniques helped establish a National Scenic Byway on Edisto Island, South Carolina.

Assessing Hydrologic Processes to Mitigate Coral Reef Degradation in Hawaii
C-CAP data were analyzed using the Nonpoint Source Pollution and Erosion Comparison Tool to understand hydrologic processes in the Hanalei Bay watershed.

Assessing the Impacts of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana
C-CAP data were used to evaluate the impacts of Hurricane Katrina in Breton Sound, Louisiana, and assess how this area had recovered almost one year later.

Establishing Conservation Goals in Southern Maine
The Habitat Priority Planner tool and C-CAP data helped in the development of a strategic conservation plan to preserve local communities for future generations.

Conserving Habitat for the New England Cottontail in Coastal Maine
Coastal managers in Maine employed the Habitat Priority Planner tool and C-CAP data to help identify suitable habitat for the endangered New England cottontail.

Advancing Restoration in the Great Lakes Region
The Habitat Priority Planner and C-CAP data were used to identify and prioritize habitat restoration projects to meet goals identified in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy.

Adapting to Sea Level Rise in Miami-Dade County, Florida
County departments identify specific actions to adapt to climate change through the Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk training.

Analyzing the Impacts of Hurricane Katrina on Forest Ecosystem Services
 C-CAP data and additional land cover analysis highlight the loss of forests and related ecosystem services following Hurricane Katrina.

Assessing the Delaware River Basin Using Land Cover Information
C-CAP data were used in the assessment of water resource health and stability in the Delaware River basin.

Building Technical Capacity in Coastal Maine
GIS service centers were established to build the technical capacity of coastal land trusts.

Modeling Future Development for Eastern North Carolina
C-CAP and lidar data were used to model potential future growth and land cover change.

Assessing Hazard Vulnerability and Resilience in Coastal Communities of the Delaware Bay
New Jersey is engaging communities in hazard mitigation planning through the use of vulnerability assessment tools.

Assessing the Impact of Impervious Surfaces on Water Resources in Southern California
C-CAP data were used to produce additional land cover information to assess the impact of impervious surface on water supply.

Assessing Fire Hazard Risk in Southern California
C-CAP data were used to produce additional land cover information to assess the risk of fire and the proximity to urban developments.

Analyzing Sedimentation Processes to Guide Conservation in Oregon
C-CAP data helped in the development of a conservation plan for the Yaquina watershed.

Informing Conservation Efforts in Coastal Georgia
Coastal conservation groups used the NatureServe Vista decision-support system to create new maps that aid in preservation of Georgia’s coastal habitat.

Identifying Areas Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise in Georgia
The Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer helped a barrier island community develop an adaptation plan to prepare for and adapt to sea level rise.



Frequently Asked Questions
Answers some questions about land cover in general and regional C-CAP data specifically including how the data are produced, how to interpret land cover change, and data availability.

Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP) Classification Scheme and Class Definitions
Provides a description of land cover classes

How to Apply the C-CAP Legend in ArcGIS
C-CAP land cover maps are delivered as thematic raster data containing a legend with standard class colors and class names. ArcGIS recognizes this legend symbology and renders the colors and names accordingly. However, some functions in ArcGIS may cause output land cover to be rendered differently. This can be addressed by importing the C-CAP legend symbology.

C-CAP Mapping Boundary
ESRI Shapefile representing the C-CAP mapping zones for the Contiguous U.S., Hawaii and the U.S. Territories of the Pacific and Caribbean.

Excel worksheets for basic analysis of C-CAP land cover change data
A land cover change file is created as part of the C-CAP project and contains the From and To land cover classes for each pixel for the selected change dates. This Excel workbook contains instructions and worksheets to create a series of basic statistics, graphics, and change matrices.

How to Clip Land Cover in ArcGIS
A set of instructions for clipping land cover data to the geometry of an area of interest.

Approaches, Techniques, and Considerations for Land Use/Land Cover Change Mapping
This American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) one-hour seminar, featuring C-CAP data, approaches, techniques, and tips, is an excellent primer on issues and challenges in land cover change mapping.

Using Land Cover Change Data to Better Understand Wetland Trends
This Association of State Wetlands Managers (ASWM) one-hour seminar, featuring C-CAP land cover change information for use in understanding wetlands trends, provides insight into how land cover change mapping can be used to screen for more site-specific wetland changes.


Regional Accuracy Assessment Reports
Describes the accuracy of NOAA’s 2010-2011 Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP) land cover updates and the methods used to assess that accuracy.

Regional Land Cover Change Report
Summarizes land cover status in 2010 and land cover changes over the previous decade and a half (from 1996 to 2010)

Lake Michigan Basin Land Cover Change Report
Summarizes land cover status in 2010 and land cover changes over the previous decades using maps and graphics.

Coastal Habitat Monitoring: Do You Have Change?
Explains how satellite imagery can be used to monitor land cover changes and walks through interpreting and analyzing a simplified change example in a hypothetical geography (lesson plan, geared for students in grades 9 to 12).

Diving Deeper: Land Cover Data
Highlights the difference between land cover and land use, the ways land cover data are collected, and some of the many applications of land cover data (recorded interview, July 29, 2009, 14:58 minutes).

Getting the Most out of Your Land Cover Mapping Dollars
Discusses how the State of Maine leveraged C-CAP work to develop data to suit its needs (Coastal Connections, August/September, 2006).

Land Cover Data Goes Coast-to-Coast
Discusses the benefits of a nationally standardized land cover, through C-CAP, and the data’s value in addressing a wide range of coastal ecosystem issues in the Great Lakes (Coastal Connections, August/September, 2007).

NOAA Land Cover Assessment Showing Increasing U.S. Coastal Development
Highlights results from the completion of NOAA’s 1996 and 2001 updated C-CAP land cover products (press release, March 17, 2008).

Original C-CAP Guidance for Regional Implementation
Provides technical and historical background on C-CAP. Changes in methodologies and C-CAP’s classification scheme have occurred since the publication date, but the document remains useful to understand the background behind the current program.

Recommended Citation

NOAA Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP) Regional Land Cover Database. Data collected 1995-present. Charleston, SC: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office for Coastal Management. Data accessed at