Refinement of Automated Forest Area Estimation via Iterative Guided Spectral Class Rejection

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Virginia Tech

The goal of this project was to develop an operational Landsat TM image classification protocol for FIA forest area estimation. A hybrid classifier known as Iterative Guided Spectral Class Rejection (IGSCR) was automated using the ERDAS C Toolkit and ERDAS Macro Language. The resulting program was tested on 4 Landsat ETM+ images using training data collected via region-growing at 200 random points within each image. The classified images were spatially post-processed using variations on a 3x3 majority filter and a clump and eliminate technique. The accuracy of the images was assessed using the center land use of all plots, and subsets containing plots with 50, 75 and 100% homogeneity.

The overall classification accuracies ranged from 81.9-95.4%. The forest area estimates derived from all image, filter and accuracy set combinations met the USDA Forest Service precision requirement of less than 3% per million acres timberland. There were no consistently significant filtering effects at the 95% level; however, the 3x3 majority filter significantly improved the accuracy of the most fragmented image and did not decrease the accuracy of the other images. Overall accuracy increased with homogeneity of the plots used in the validation set and decreased with fragmentation (estimated by % edge; R2 = 0.932).

We conclude that the use of random points to initiate training data collection via region-growing may be an acceptable and repeatable addition to the IGSCR protocol, if the training data are representative of the spectral characteristics of the image. We recommend 3x3 majority filtering for all images, and, if it would not bias the sample, the selection of validation data using a plot homogeneity requirement rather than plot center land use only. These protocol refinements, along with the automation of IGSCR, make IGSCR suitable for use by the USDA Forest Service in the operational classification of Landsat imagery for forest area estimation.

FIA, Landsat ETM+, IGSCR, Forest Area Estimation, Postprocessing