Canadian Forest Service Publications

Update and spatial extension of strategic forest inventories using time series remote sensing and modeling. 2020. Shang, C., Coops, N.C., Wulder, M.A. White, J.C., Hermosilla, T. Int J Appl Earth Obs Geoinformation 84, 101956.

Year: 2020

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40041

Language: English

Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jag.2019.101956

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Abstract

Up-to-date forest inventory information relating the characteristics of managed and natural forests is fundamental to sustainable forest management and required to inform conservation of biodiversity and assess climate change impacts and mitigation opportunities. Strategic forest inventories are difficult to compile over large areas and are often quickly outdated or spatially incomplete as a function of their long production cycle. As a consequence, automated approaches supported by remotely sensed data are increasingly sought to provide exhaustive spatial coverage for a set of core attributes in a timely fashion. The objective of this study was to demonstrate the integration of current remotely-sensed data products and pre-existing jurisdictional inventory data to map four forest attributes of interest (stand age, dominant species, site index, and stem density) for a 55 Mha study region in British Columbia, Canada. First, via image segmentation, spectrally homogenous objects were derived from Landsat surface-reflectance pixel composites. Second, a suite of Landsat-based predictors (e.g., spectral indices, disturbance history, and forest structure) and ancillary variables (e.g., geographic, topographic, and climatic) were derived for these units and used to develop predictive models of target attributes. For the often difficult classification of dominant species, two modelling approaches were compared: (a) a global Random Forests model calibrated with training samples collected over the entire study area, and (b) an ensemble of local models, each calibrated with spatially constrained local samples. Accuracy assessment based upon independent validation samples revealed that the ensemble of local models was more accurate and efficient for species classification, achieving an overall accuracy of 72% for the species which dominate 80% of the forested areas in the province. Results indicated that site index had the highest agreement between predicted and reference (R2 = 0.74, %RMSE = 23.1%), followed by stand age (R2 = 0.62, %RMSE = 35.6%), and stem density (R2 = 0.33, %RMSE = 65.2%). Inventory attributes mapped at the image-derived unit level captured much finer details than traditional polygon-based inventory, yet can be readily reassembled into these larger units for strategic forest planning purposes. Based upon this work, we conclude that in a multi-source forest monitoring program, spatially localized and detailed characterizations enabled by time series of Landsat observations in conjunction with ancillary data can be used to support strategic inventory activities over large areas.

Plain Language Summary

Up-to-date forest inventory information relating the characteristics of managed and natural forests is fundamental to sustainable forest management and required to inform conservation of biodiversity and assess climate change impacts and mitigation opportunities. The objective of this study was to demonstrate the integration of current remotely-sensed data products and pre-existing jurisdictional inventory data to map four forest inventory attributes of interest (stand age, dominant species, site index, and stem density). Accuracy assessment based upon independent validation samples revealed that the ensemble of local models was more accurate and efficient for species classification, achieving an overall accuracy of 72% for the species which dominate 80% of the forested areas in the province. As freely available remotely sensed data sources proliferate, the ability to combine imagery with high spatial and temporal resolutions further enables capacity for science informed operational application development, such as strategic forest inventory.