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The paper investigated the application of MODIS data for mapping regional land cover at moderate resolutions (250 and 500 in), for regional conservation purposes. Land cover maps were generated for two major conservation areas (Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem-GYE, USA and the Par State, Brazil) using MODIS data and decision tree classifications. The MODIS land cover products were evaluated using existing Landsat TM land cover maps as reference data. The Landsat TM land cover maps were processed to their fractional composition at the MODIS resolution (250 and 500 m). In GYE, the MODIS land cover was very successful at mapping extensive cover types (e.g. coniferous forest and grasslands) and far less successful at mapping smaller habitats (e.g. wetlands, deciduous tree cover) that typically occur in patches that are smaller than the MODIS pixels, but are reported to be very important to biodiversity conservation. The MODIS classification for Para State was successful at producing a regional forest/non-forest product which is useful for monitoring the extreme human impacts such as deforestation. The ability of MODIS data to map secondary forest remains to be tested, since regrowth typically harbors reduced levels of biodiversity. The two case studies showed the value of using multi-date 250 m data with only two spectral bands, as well as single day 500 in data with seven spectral bands, thus illustrating the versatile use of MODIS data in two contrasting environments. MODIS data provide new options for regional land cover mapping that are less labor-intensive than Landsat and have higher resolution than previous 1 km AVHRR or the current 1 km global land cover product. The usefulness of the MODTS data in addressing biodiversity conservation questions will ultimately depend upon the patch sizes of important habitats and the land cover transformations that threaten them. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved

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