I have a couple of shapefiles in which there is some information about land use (polygons) such as water, forests, soils, buildings etc. Each of the shapefiles represents a certain year of the same area of interest.

I want to indicate the area which was the biggest change over the years.

Can you suggest me a procedure to do it in ArcGIS 10 ?

1 Answer 1


You could start out by performing a union between the land use layers.


This will yield a new layer combining the geometries and attributes of the input layers. You can then experiment with different queries to visualize and quantify the changes as desired.

What exactly do you mean by "biggest change over the years" - the most dramatic land use change irrespective of the surface area involved (ex. from forest to built environment), the largest surface area that changed uses, or a combination of the two?

  • The best would be for this 3 scenarios you have mentioned. But mostly I was concerned about the first one: "the most dramatic land use change irrespective of the surface area involved"
    – com
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 14:23
  • What precisely would "most dramatic" mean, though?
    – whuber
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 15:39
  • I'm interested in finding those areas where over the years the changes are most visible.
    – com
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 17:26

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