Canadian Forest Service Publications
Land cover 2.0. 2018. Wulder, M.A., Coops, N.C., Roy, D.P. , White, J.C., Hermosilla, T. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 39:12, 4254-4284.
Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 39137
Availability: PDF (download)
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Interest in knowing more about the Earth’s land cover and how it has changed over time motivated the mission and sensor design of early terrestrial remote sensing systems. Rapid developments in computer hardware and software in the last four decades have greatly increased the capacity for satellite data acquisition, downlink, dissemination, and end user science and applications. In 1992, Townshend reviewed the state of land cover mapping using Earth observation data at a pivotal point in time and in the context of years of research and practical experience with Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM), Satellite Pour l’Observation de la Terre (SPOT) High Resolution Visible (HRV) and Advanced Very-High-Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) data, demonstrating the opportunities and information content possible with increased spatial, spectral, and temporal resolutions. Townshend characterized the state-of-the-art for land cover at that time, identified trends, and shared insights on research directions. Now, on the 25th anniversary of Townshend’s important work, given numerous advances and emerging trends, we revisit the status of land cover mapping with Earth observation data. We posit that a new era of land cover analysis – Land Cover 2.0 – has emerged, enabled by free and open access data, analysis ready data, high performance computing, and rapidly developing data processing and analysis capabilities. Herein we characterize this new era in land cover information, highlighting institutional, computational, as well as theoretical developments that have occurred over the past 25 years, identifying the key issues and opportunities that have emerged. We conclude that Land Cover 2.0 offers efficiencies in information generation that will result in a proliferation of land cover products, reinforcing the need for transparency regarding the input data and algorithms used as well as adoption, implementation, and communication of rigorous accuracy assessment protocols. Further, land cover and land change assessments are no longer independent activities. Knowledge of land change is available to inform and enrich land cover generation.
Plain Language Summary
In 1992 John Townshend had a paper published in IJRS that had a great influence on us as researchers and the community at large. In the paper, Land Cover, Prof Townshend characterized the state-of-the-art for land cover at that time, identified trends, and shared insights on research directions. Now, on the 25th anniversary of Townshend’s important work, we thought it time to revisit the status of land cover mapping with earth observation data. We posit that a new era of land cover analysis – Land Cover 2.0 – has emerged, enabled by free and open access data, analysis ready data, high performance computing, and rapidly developing data processing and analysis capabilities. Building on the insights and experiences of the remote sensing community, land cover 2.0 provides an opportunity to meet the information needs of a number of stakeholders and to approach the vision of early scientists and practitioners. The rapidly developing technological (satellite, communications, computing) and applications landscape will continue to evolve and further empower science in support of pressing interests of society.