Identifying Forest Impacted by Development in the Commonwealth of Virginia through the Use of Landsat and Known Change Indicators
House, Matthew N.
Wynne, Randolph H.
MetadataShow full item record
This study examines the effectiveness of using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) derived from 1326 different Landsat Thematic Mapper and Enhanced Thematic Mapper images in finding low density development within the Commonwealth of Virginia’s forests. Individual NDVI images were stacked by year for the years 1995–2011 and the yearly maximum for each pixel was extracted, resulting in a 17-year image stack of all yearly maxima (a 98.7% data reduction). Using location data from housing starts and well permits, known previously forested housing starts were isolated from all other forest disturbance types. Samples from development disturbances and other forest disturbances, as well as from undisturbed forest, were used to derive vegetation index thresholds enabling separation of disturbed forest from undisturbed forest. Disturbances, once identified, could be separated into Development Disturbances and Non-Development Disturbances using a classification tree and only two variables from the Disturbance Detection and Diagnostics (D3) algorithm: the maximum NDVI in the available recovery period and the slope between the NDVI value at the time of the disturbance and the maximum NDVI in the available recovery period. Low density development disturbances of previous forest land cover had an F-measure, combining precision and recall into a single class-specific accuracy (β = 1), of 0.663. We compared our results to the NLCD 2001–2011 land cover changes from any forest (classes 41, 42, 43, and 90) to any developed (classes 21, 22, 23, and 24), resulting in an F-measure of 0.00 for the same validation points. Landsat time series stacks thus show promise for identifying even the small changes associated with low density development that have been historically overlooked/underestimated by prior mapping efforts. However, further research is needed to ensure that (1) the approach will work in other forest biomes and (2) enabling detection of these important, but spatially and spectrally subtle, disturbances still ensures accurate detection of other forest disturbances.