Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2017 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Land-use and land cover of Baltimore City in 1927
Lagrosa, John
Co-Authors: John J. Lagrosa IV J. Morgan Grove Nancy Falxa Sonti Aidan Kirchgraber

Abstract: The Baltimore Old Forest Project is working to understand the relationships among people, communities, and forests in Baltimore, MD over the past 100 years. The distribution of landscapes that seem like “nature” or “wilderness” are actually the result of complex social histories. Analyzing the landscape is typically done through the automation of land-use and land cover classifications with GIS software using spatially explicit color aerial imagery. However, classifications of black and white historical aerial photographs present a number of challenges that require a combination of techniques and novel approaches. We analyzed 93 aerial images covering 210 mi2 (544km2) within and surrounding Baltimore City, taken from a bi-plane between 1926-27. High-resolution scans were georeferenced and georectified against modern satellite imagery of the area. This process converts the images from a disparate set of photographs into a seamless GIS data set that can be used to observe changes in land patches over time—and ultimately integrated with other long-term social, economic, and ecological data. During the summer of 2017, we worked with Baltimore high school and college interns to digitize the rectified images into a land-use and land cover classification. This geospatial data set captures a moment of dynamic expansion in the city, just prior to the Great Depression. Our preliminary analyses suggest insights into the relationships between property ownership and forest patch dynamics across time. These insights may help inform future environmental planning, conservation, management, and stewardship goals for Baltimore City forest patches, and other cities throughout the region.