NGDA Themes

These are the NGDA Themes endorsed by the FGDC Steering Committee in August, 2011 and revised February 2013.

Themes noted with an asterisk (*) are a Framework theme.



Pertain to, or describe, the dynamic processes, interactions, distributions, and relationships between and among organisms and their environments.          



Past, current, and future rights and interests in real property including the spatial information necessary to describe geographic extents. Rights and interests are benefits or enjoyment in real property that can be conveyed, transferred, or otherwise allocated to another for economic remuneration. Rights and interests are recorded in land record documents. The spatial information necessary to describe geographic extents includes surveys and legal description frameworks such as the Public Land Survey System, as well as parcel-by-parcel surveys and descriptions. Does not include Federal government or military facilities.


Climate and Weather

Meteorological conditions, including temperature, precipitation, and wind, that characteristically prevail in a particular region over a long period of time. Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a given time and place, with respect to variables such as temperature, moisture, wind velocity, and barometric pressure.


Cultural Resources

Features and characteristics of a collection of places of significance in history, architecture, engineering, or society. Includes National Monuments and Icons.



The measured vertical position of the earth surface and other landscape or bathymetric features relative to a reference datum typically related to sea level. These points normally describe bare earth positions but may also describe the top surface of buildings and other objects, vegetation structure, or submerged objects. Elevation data can be stored as a three-dimensional array or as a continuous surface such as a raster, triangulated irregular network, or contours. Elevation data may also be represented in other derivative forms such as slope, aspect, ridge and drainage lines, and shaded relief.


*Geodetic Control 

Survey control points or other related data sets which are accurately tied to the National Spatial Reference System (the official, common federal system for establishing coordinates for geospatial data that are consistent nationwide). Geodetic control examples include: passive geodetic control marks, active geodetic observing systems, data from Global Navigation Satellite Systems (e.g., GPS), gravity measurements, and models of the earth's gravity field (geoid).



Geographically-referenced data pertaining to the origin, history, composition, structure, features, and processes of the solid Earth, both onshore and offshore. Includes geologic, geophysical, and geochemical maps, stratigraphy, paleontology, geochronology, mineral and energy resources, and natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, coastal erosion, and landslides. Does not include soils.


*Governmental Units, and Administrative and Statistical Boundaries

Boundaries that delineate geographic areas for uses such as governance and the general provision of services (e.g., States, American Indian reservations, counties, cities, towns, etc.), administration and/or for a specific purpose (e.g., Congressional Districts, school districts, fire districts, Alaska Native Regional Corporations, etc.), and/or provision of statistical data (census tracts, census blocks, metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, etc.). Boundaries for these various types of geographic areas are either defined through a documented legal description or through criteria and guidelines. Other boundaries may include international limits, those of federal land ownership, the extent of administrative regions for various federal agencies, as well as the jurisdictional offshore limits of U.S. sovereignty. Boundaries associated solely with natural resources and/or cultural entities are excluded from this theme and are included in the appropriate subject themes.



Georeferenced images of the Earth's surface, which have been collected via aerial photography or satellite data. Orthoimagery is prepared through a geometric correction process known as orthorectification to remove image displacements due to relief and sensor characteristics, allowing their use as base maps for digital mapping and analyses in a GIS. Specific imagery data sets created through image interpretation and classification, such as a land cover image, can be found under themes specific to the subject matter. Includes imagery such as Landsat, National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP), Digital Orthophoto Quarter Quadrangles (DOQQs).


Land Use-Land Cover 

LU/LC is a term referring collectively to natural and man-made surface features that cover the land (Land Cover) and to the primary ways in which land cover is used by humans (Land Use). Examples of Land Cover may be grass, asphalt, trees, bare ground, water, etc. Examples of Land Use may be urban, agricultural, ranges, and forest areas.


Real Property

The spatial representation (location) of real property entities, typically consisting of one or more of the following: unimproved land, a building, a structure, site improvements and the underlying land. Complex real property entities (that is "facilities") are used for a broad spectrum of functions or missions. This theme focuses on spatial representation of real property assets only and does not seek to describe special purpose functions of real property such as those found in the Cultural Resources, Transportation, or Utilities themes.



Depicts the geography and attributes of the many kinds of soils found in the landscape at both large and small map scales. A Living dynamic resource providing a natural medium for plant growth and habitat for living organisms, soil recycles nutrients and wastes, stores carbon, and purifies water supplies. Soil has distinct layers (called ‘horizons’) that, in contrast to underlying geologic material, are altered by the interactions of climate, landscape features, and living organisms over time. For more information on Soils, see



Means and aids for conveying persons and/or goods. The transportation system includes both physical and nonphysical components related to all modes of travel that allow the movement of goods and people between locations.



Means, aids, and usage of facilities for producing, conveying, distributing, processing or disposing of public and private commodities including power, energy, communications, natural gas, and water. Includes sub themes for Energy, Drinking water and Water treatment, and Communications.


*Water – Inland 

Interior hydrologic features and characteristics, including classification, measurements, location, and extent. Includes aquifers, watersheds, wetlands, navigation, water quality, water quantity, and groundwater information.


*Water – Oceans and Coasts 

Features and characteristics of salt water bodies (i.e. tides, tidal waves, coastal information, reefs) and features and characteristics that represent the intersection of the land with the water surface (i.e. shorelines), the lines from which the territorial sea and other maritime zones are measured (i.e. baseline maritime) and lands covered by water at any stage of the tide (i.e. Outer Continental Shelf ), as distinguished from tidelands, which are attached to the mainland or an island and cover and uncover with the tide.