Mapping the Physiography of Michigan with GIS


Randall J. Schaetzl, Helen Enander, Michael D. Luehmann, David P. Lusch, Carolyn Fish, Michael Bigsby, Mark Steigmeyer, Jennifer Guasco, Claire Forgacs, and Aaron Pollyea


We present a new physiographic map of Michigan, also available interactively, online. Only four, small-scale physiographic maps of Michigan had been previously published. Our mapping project made use of a wide variety of spatial data, in a GIS environment, to visualize and delineate the physical landscape in more detail than has been done previously. We also examined many of the unit boundaries in the field, using a GIS running on a GPS-enabled laptop. Unlike previous physiographic maps, the online version of the map enables users to query the criteria used to define each of the 224 boundaries of its 10 major and 91 minor physiographic units. The interactive nature of the online version of the map is a unique enhancement to physiographic maps and mapping. Our study also provides data on the number and types of criteria used to define each of the 224 unit boundaries within the map. Most of our unit boundaries are based on data derived from 10-m raster elevation data and NRCS soils data, e.g., relief, soil wetness, escarpments, landscape fabric, and parent material characteristics. Data gleaned from NRCS SSURGO county-scale soil maps were a strength of the project.