Temporal optimisation of image acquisition for land cover classification with random forest and MODIS time-series

Nitze, I., Barrett, B. and Cawkwell, F. (2015) Temporal optimisation of image acquisition for land cover classification with random forest and MODIS time-series. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 34, pp. 136-146. (doi: 10.1016/j.jag.2014.08.001)

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The analysis and classification of land cover is one of the principal applications in terrestrial remote sensing. Due to the seasonal variability of different vegetation types and land surface characteristics, the ability to discriminate land cover types changes over time. Multi-temporal classification can help to improve the classification accuracies, but different constraints, such as financial restrictions or atmospheric conditions, may impede their application. The optimisation of image acquisition timing and frequencies can help to increase the effectiveness of the classification process. For this purpose, the Feature Importance (FI) measure of the state-of-the art machine learning method Random Forest was used to determine the optimal image acquisition periods for a general (Grassland, Forest, Water, Settlement, Peatland) and Grassland specific (Improved Grassland, Semi-Improved Grassland) land cover classification in central Ireland based on a 9-year time-series of MODIS Terra 16 day composite data (MOD13Q1). Feature Importances for each acquisition period of the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) and Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) were calculated for both classification scenarios. In the general land cover classification, the months December and January showed the highest, and July and August the lowest separability for both VIs over the entire nine-year period. This temporal separability was reflected in the classification accuracies, where the optimal choice of image dates outperformed the worst image date by 13% using NDVI and 5% using EVI on a mono-temporal analysis. With the addition of the next best image periods to the data input the classification accuracies converged quickly to their limit at around 8–10 images. The binary classification schemes, using two classes only, showed a stronger seasonal dependency with a higher intra-annual, but lower inter-annual variation. Nonetheless anomalous weather conditions, such as the cold winter of 2009/2010 can alter the temporal separability pattern significantly. Due to the extensive use of the NDVI for land cover discrimination, the findings of this study should be transferrable to data from other optical sensors with a higher spatial resolution. However, the high impact of outliers from the general climatic pattern highlights the limitation of spatial transferability to locations with different climatic and land cover conditions. The use of high-temporal, moderate resolution data such as MODIS in conjunction with machine-learning techniques proved to be a good base for the prediction of image acquisition timing for optimal land cover classification results.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Barrett, Dr Brian
Authors: Nitze, I., Barrett, B., and Cawkwell, F.
Subjects:G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GA Mathematical geography. Cartography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
ISSN (Online):1872-826X
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
First Published:First published in International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation 34:136-146
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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