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Summarizing Polygons within Polygons in ArcGIS 10

Problem
Youve animal locations that youve buffered and youd like to identify the area of each
vegetation type within each buffer. The buffers overlap. Fortunately the solution is simple.
Step 1
Start with your vegetation map and your buffered polygons. You should make sure that your
buffers were not created using the dissolve intersections option. You can double check this by
clicking on the overlapping area with the identify button. Also make sure that your vegetation
map doesnt contain overlapping polygons or gaps where there shouldnt be gaps.

Step 2
Run the union tool to union the two datasets together. Open the ArcToolbox window. From
ArcToolbox navigate to the following tool ArcToolbox  Analysis Tools  Overlay  Union.
Drag the two datasets in as the input features, make sure that join attributes is set to all, and

check the gaps allowed checkbox. Trick: if you dont want to have to recalculate area then set
the output to a geodatabase feature class.

Step 3
Check the output of the union on the map. Make sure that that the new feature class shows
the division at edge of the buffers. Also double check to make sure that there are multiple
polygons in the overlap area by using the identify button. Now open the attribute table of the
unioned feature class (In the Table of Contents (left panel) right click on the name of the
feature class and select open attribute table. In the attribute table identify the field that has
the unique identifier from the buffers (usually has a name like FID_points_buffer or something
similar). Values in the table with -1 are outside of the buffers. Select rows corresponding with
one of the overlapping buffer polygons. Then select the rows of other overlapping buffer
polygon. Clear the selection.

Step 4
Create a concatenated field that represents the combination of the buffer and the vegetation
type. To add a new field click on the menu in the upper left hand corner of the attribute table
and add a field named concat making sure that it is type text. Everything else can be left with
the default settings. Now right click on the new field in the attribute table and select field
calculator. Make sure that the parser is set to VB Script. Double click on the field with the
unique identifier type in the following &_& and then double click on the field that specifies
the vegetation types.

Step 5
Dissolve based on the newly calculated field. In ArcToolbox navigate to the dissolve tool
(ArcToolbox  Data Management  Generalization  Dissolve). Drag the unioned feature
class in as the input features. Select the concat field as the dissolve field, select Shape_Area as
the statstic field with the statistic type as sum (At this stage if you are using shapefiles you
should go back and update your areas using the Calculate Geometry tool. If you are using a
geodatabase it will do this automatically.), and make sure that create multipart features is
checked. Click OK.
Step 6
Remove the non-buffered polygons from your new feature class. Add the editor toolbar to
ArcMap and open an edit session with dissolved feature class the edit target. Make sure that
the edit target is visible in the Table of Contents window. Open the attribute table, and sort by
by concat field. Remember that values with a -1 represent all non-buffered vegetation
polygons. Select those records, make sure that the edit session is still going, and hit the delete
key. Save your edits and close the edit session.

Step 7
At this stage you are technically done (see the graphic above). You can export the attribute
table to a dBASE or text file and do further analysis in Excel or Open Office Calc. If you are using
shapefiles you might want to re-calculate the areas. Note that the polygons are drawn in such a
way that the buffers with the larger FIDs or OIDs display on top of the ones with a smaller
FID/OID. An optional step is to create a feature class which shows the buffer division lines. You
can do this using the Feature to Polygon tool (make sure that you have an ArcInfo license (Help
 About ArMap). The feature to polygon tool is access from ArcToolbox  Data Management
 Features  Feature to Polygon.