A Practical and Automated Approach to Large Area Forest Disturbance Mapping with Remote Sensing

Mutlu Ozdogan, Guy J.-P. Schumann
2014 PLoS ONE  
In this paper, I describe a set of procedures that automate forest disturbance mapping using a pair of Landsat images. The approach is built on the traditional pair-wise change detection method, but is designed to extract training data without user interaction and uses a robust classification algorithm capable of handling incorrectly labeled training data. The steps in this procedure include: i) creating masks for water, non-forested areas, clouds, and cloud shadows; ii) identifying training
more » ... els whose value is above or below a threshold defined by the number of standard deviations from the mean value of the histograms generated from local windows in the short-wave infrared (SWIR) difference image; iii) filtering the original training data through a number of classification algorithms using an n-fold cross validation to eliminate mislabeled training samples; and finally, iv) mapping forest disturbance using a supervised classification algorithm. When applied to 17 Landsat footprints across the U.S. at five-year intervals between 1985 and 2010, the proposed approach produced forest disturbance maps with 80 to 95% overall accuracy, comparable to those obtained from traditional approaches to forest change detection. The primary sources of mis-classification errors included inaccurate identification of forests (errors of commission), issues related to the land/water mask, and clouds and cloud shadows missed during image screening. The approach requires images from the peak growing season, at least for the deciduous forest sites, and cannot readily distinguish forest harvest from natural disturbances or other types of land cover change. The accuracy of detecting forest disturbance diminishes with the number of years between the images that make up the image pair. Nevertheless, the relatively high accuracies, little or no user input needed for processing, speed of map production, and simplicity of the approach make the new method especially practical for forest cover change analysis over very large regions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078438 pmid:24717283 pmcid:PMC3981667 fatcat:bspcayx3wbbczodol33v7orhwe