Mapcurves: a quantitative method for comparing categorical maps.

  • Authors: Hargrove, William W.; Forrest, M. Hoffman; Hessburg, Paul F.
  • Publication Year: 2006
  • Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
  • Source: Journal of Geographical Systems: 1-22


We present Mapcurves, a quantitative goodness-of-fit (GOF) method that unambiguously shows the degree of spatial concordance between two or more categorical maps. Mapcurves graphically and quantitatively evaluate the degree of fit among any number of maps and quantify a GOF for each polygon, as well as the entire map. The Mapcurve method indicates a perfect fit even if all polygons in one map are comprised of unique sets of the polygons in another map, if the coincidence among map categor is absolute. It is not necessary to interpret (or even know) legend descriptors for the categories in the maps to be compared, since the degree of fit in the spatial overlay alone forms the basis for the comparison. This feature makes Mapcurves deal for comparing maps derived from remotely sensed images. A translation table is provided for the categories in each map as an output. Since the comparison is category-based rather than cell-based, the GOF is resolution-independent. Mapcurves can be applied either to entire map categories or to individual raster patches or vector polygons. Mapcurves also have applications for quantifying the spatial uncertainty of particular map features.

  • Citation: Hargrove, William W.; Forrest, M. Hoffman; Hessburg, Paul F. 2006. Mapcurves: a quantitative method for comparing categorical maps. Journal of Geographical Systems: 1-22
  • Keywords: ecoregion, goodness-of-fit, kappa statistic, landcover, model validation, overlap, spatial confidence, spatial uncertainty, vegetation
  • Posted Date: September 18, 2006
  • Modified Date: April 29, 2008
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