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fast facts

Land Cover Change

NOAA’s land cover program uses satellite imagery to document coastal land cover and how it changes over time. The following national facts are based on the latest change data that is available on a national level—1996 to 2010.

8.6% Forest loss

From 1996 to 2010, total forest cover in the coastal U.S. decreased by more than 14.7 million acres, at a rate of approximately 8.6 percent.

3.6 million acres developed
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During this time frame, the U.S. coastal zone added more than 3.6 million acres of development—an area roughly the size of Connecticut.

1,535 square miles

The nation’s coastal wetlands decreased by 982,000 acres, or 1,535 square miles, between 1996 and 2010.

Twice as Fast

Coastal lands are changing at a faster pace than the rest of the U.S. Approximately 41.6 million acres—an area slightly larger than Florida—underwent some sort of change. Coastal land cover change happens at a rate of change that is twice that of the rest of the country.

Delaware: Agriculture

Over one-third of the state of Delaware (almost 1,000 square miles) is agricultural land. That’s an area equal to about half the Grand Canyon.

Louisiana: Wetlands

Louisiana has over 11,000 square miles of wetlands within the coastal region. Louisiana experienced a loss of 309 square miles of wetlands (more than double the average for the nation). Impacts from Hurricane Katrina contributed significantly to the loss.

Land cover change graphic stating that coastal land cover changes twice as fast as the rest of the nation.  41.6 million acres from 1996-2010
Graphic is presentation-ready: copy and paste for use in a handout or presentation.

New Hampshire: Forests

In New Hampshire, forest represents the largest land cover class at 7,610 square miles (74 percent of the state).

Oregon: Undeveloped Land

Just slightly more than 1,000 square miles (3.11 percent) of this state’s coast is developed, which is less than one third the national average.

New Jersey: Development

Over 2,000 square miles, or 22 percent of this state, is developed. That is more than double the average for coastal states.



The coastal areas defined by the land cover data used to collect these facts include intertidal areas, wetlands, and adjacent upland areas for the coastal U.S.