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Coastal areas are commonly defined as the interface or transition areas between land and sea, including large inland lakes. Climate change is impacting and will continue to affect coastal areas in a variety of ways. Coasts are sensitive to sea level rise, changes in the frequency and intensity of storms, increases in precipitation, and warmer ocean temperatures. In addition, rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing the oceans to absorb more of the gas and become more acidic. These changes are already impacting coastal and marine ecosystems.
Types of designated areas vary vastly, however, the recognition of these lands is created through common processes for similar purposes. Federally, the Bureau of Land Management’s National Conservation Lands, also known as the National Landscape Conservation System, includes over 870 recognized areas spanning approximately 30 million acres of public lands.
Forests are areas of land covered with trees or other woody vegetation. In the United States, EPA reports that forests occupy approximately 751 million acres – about one third of the country’s total land area. These forests provide many benefits and services, including recreation, clean air and water, wildlife habitat, carbon storage, and a variety of forest products.
Grasslands, also known as prairies, steppes, or savannas, exhibit naturally dominant grass vegetation, typically in areas where there is not enough rainfall to support the growth of a forest but not so little as to form a desert. Deserts are biomes characterized by small amounts of moisture.
The landscape of urban open spaces can range from playing fields to highly maintained environments to relatively natural landscapes. Urban open spaces can be well protected due to conservation status, but unprotected areas may especially be at risk due to development pressures. As dense population centers, urban areas have opportunities to embrace “smart growth” to balance development needs with important ecological, economic, and social benefits of open spaces.
From seeps and springs to rivers, lakes, aquifers, and oceans, water resources refer to sources of water that are useful or potentially useful for humans, as well as hydrologically-dependent ecological systems.
Generally synonymous with farmland or cropland, agricultural land is typically devoted to the systematic propagation of livestock and production of crops—to produce food and associated goods.
Aquaculture refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments.
Working forests typically describe lands where forest products are actively harvested. Increasingly in the conservation community management for ecosystem services.