The multi-resolution land characteristics (MRLC) consortium–20 years of development and integration of USA national land cover data
The Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics (MRLC) Consortium demonstrates the national benefits of USA Federal collaboration. Starting in the mid-1990s as a small group with the straightforward goal of compiling a comprehensive national Landsat dataset that could be used to meet agencies’ needs, MRLC has grown into a group of 10 USA Federal Agencies that coordinate the production of five different products, including the National Land Cover Database (NLCD), the Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP), the Cropland Data Layer (CDL), the Gap Analysis Program (GAP), and the Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools (LANDFIRE). As a set, the products include almost every aspect of land cover from impervious surface to detailed crop and vegetation types to fire fuel classes. Some products can be used for land cover change assessments because they cover multiple time periods. The MRLC Consortium has become a collaborative forum, where members share research, methodological approaches, and data to produce products using established protocols, and we believe it is a model for the production of integrated land cover products at national to continental scales. We provide a brief overview of each of the main products produced by MRLC and examples of how each product has been used. We follow that with a discussion of the impact of the MRLC program and a brief overview of future plans.