In this study we report the first application of Landsat TM imagery to Chaco vegetation studies at a regional scale in Argentina. We produced a map showing 13 clearly differentiated land-cover types, and described the composition and structure of the plant communities, in an area of almost 40 000 km2 in central Argentina. The land-cover map obtained shows that the Chaco vegetation in central Argentina is highly disturbed. In the lowland part of the area the dominant land-cover types are largely cultural landscapes and substitute shrublands, which have displaced the original Chaco forests, leaving only small isolated remnants generally confined to sites with some kind of constrain for agriculture. The use of TM images and the multivariate analysis of phytosociological data showed a qualified, high accuracy mapping capability for land-cover types in the Chaco region (ca. 85% overall accuracy). Our results highlight the utility of TM and field data in a subtropical to warm-temperate region, which is promising where other ancillary data are not available and a rapid acquisition of reliable vegetation data is required, so constituting a starting point for an imperative and more extensive classification and mapping of the endangered Chaco region.
Abbreviations: AVHRR = Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer; MSS = Multi Spectral Scanner; TM = Thematic Mapper.