Satellite maps show Chesapeake Bay urban development



The extent, density, and configuration of the built environment—such as buildings, roads, parking lots, and other materials constructed for human use—have an impact on a wide range of biogeochemical and hydrological processes. These built areas, which are impervious to water infiltration, modify hydrology through the combined influence of increased peak flows, reduced base flows, flashier stream hydrographs (decreased lag times between storm events and peak discharge), and changes in bank and streambed erosion [Nilsson et al., 2003]. Additionally, increasing impervious cover has long been known to amplify point source pollution discharges into streams, including chemical runoff from parking lots and roads [Schuelen 1994].

Two maps of the built environment, expressed in terms of impervious surface area, have been derived for areas that encompass the 168,000-square-kilometer Chesapeake Bay watershed (Figure l), a region that has been highly altered by human land use [Goetz et al., 2004; Jantz et al., 2005]. One map was developed for the region at fine (30-square-meter) spatial resolution, and the other covers the extent of the conterminous United States at one-square-kilometer resolution [Elvidge et al., 2004].A finer-resolution regional map was used to assess the quality of the national map, demonstrating the utility the latter map for a range of applications related to monitoring land transformation and assessing watershed impacts.