I have land cover data, it's originally in polygon format, but I also converted it to raster. I have made 1 km buffer polygons around study sites, each has their own separate site ID. How can I calculate (ideally into a table) the area or amount of each land cover type within each polygon. For example, site 1 has 25 square meters of forest, 100 square meters of housing, etc.
Out of curiosity, would anyone know a vector/shapefile/polygon option? As in, calculate total area within a category of polygon within the buffer polygons? For some reason, MassGIS has its land use layers as shapefiles, and I'm worried that converting to raster might result in a loss of information.
In vector world, there is the whole An overview of the Overlay toolset—Help | ArcGIS for Desktop
Union and intersect may be suitable in most cases, but have a look at the other tools. These tools create new geometries from the inputs...they also handle the tabular values in slightly different ways. But it is important to be careful that any computations that result in geometries (ie area ) will need to be recalculated if using shapefiles. The resultant geometries can be then used in summarize or select by attribute operations to obtain the results that you need. It is unlikely that a one-button solves-all approach will suffice.