Assessing annual urban change and its impacts on evapotranspiration


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Virginia Tech


Land Use Land Cover Change (LULCC) is a major component of global environmental change, which could result in huge impacts on biodiversity, water yield and quality, climate, soil condition, food security and human welfare. Of all the LULCC types, urbanization is considered to be the most impactful one. Monitoring past and current urbanization processes could provide valuable information for ecosystem services evaluation and policy-making.

The National Land Cover Database (NLCD) provides land use land cover data covering the entire United States, and it is widely used as land use land cover data input in numerous environmental models. One major drawback of NLCD is that it is updated every five years, which makes it unsatisfactory for some models requiring land use land cover data with a higher temporal resolution. This dissertation integrated a rich time series of Landsat imagery and NLCD to achieve annual urban change mapping in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area by using time series data change point detection methods. Three different time series change point detection methods were tested and compared to find out the optimal one.

One major limitation of using the above time series change point detection method for annual urban mapping is that it relies heavily on NLCD, thus the method is not applicable to near-real time monitoring of urban change. To achieve the near real-time urban change identification, this research applied machine learning-based classification models, including random forest and Artificial Neural Networks (ANN), to automatically detect urban changes by using a rich time series of Landsat imagery as inputs.

Urban growth could result in a higher probability of flooding by reducing infiltration and evapotranspiration (ET). ET plays an important role in stormwater mitigation and flood reduction, thus assessing the changes of ET under different urban growth scenarios could yield valuable information for urban planners and policy makers. In this study, spatial-explicit annual ET data at 30-m resolution was generated for Virginia Beach by integrating daily ET data derived from METRIC model and Landsat imagery. Annual ET rates across different major land cover types were compared, and the results indicated that converting forests to urban could result in a huge deduction in ET, thus increasing flood probability. Furthermore, we developed statistical models to explain spatial ET variation using high resolution (1m) land cover data. The results showed that annual ET will increase with the increase of the canopy cover, and it would decrease with the increase of impervious cover and water table depth.



Urban change, NDVI, Machine learning, evapotranspiration