Landsat Thematic Mapper images from 1990 to 1996 and collateral data sources were used to classify the land cover of the Mermentau River Basin (MRB) within the Chenier Plain of coastal Louisiana. Landcover classes followed the definition of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coastal Change Analysis Program; however, classification methods had to be developed as part of this study for attainment of these national classification standards. Classification method developments were especially important when classes were spectrally inseparable, when classes were part of spatial and spectral continuums, when the spatial resolution of the sensor included more than one landcover type, and when human activities caused abnormal transitions in the landscape. Most classification problems were overcome by using one or a combination of techniques, such as separating the MRB into subregions of commonality, applying masks to specific land mixtures, and highlighting class transitions between years that were highly unlikely. Overall, 1990, 1993, and 1996 classification accuracy percentages (associated kappa statistics) were 80% (0.79), 78% (0.76), and 86% (0.84), respectively. Most classification errors were associated with confusion between managed (cultivated land) and unmanaged grassland classes; scrub shrub, grasslands and forest classes; water, unconsolidated shore and bare land classes; and especially in 1993, between water and floating vegetation classes. Combining cultivated land and grassland classes and water and floating vegetation classes into single classes accuracies for 1990, 1993, and 1996 increased to 82%, 83%, and 90%, respectively. To improve the interpretation of landcover change, three indicators of landcover class stability were formulated. Location stability was defined as the percentage of a landcover class that remained as the same class in the same location at the beginning and the end of the monitoring period. Residence stability was defined as the percent change in each class within the entire MRB during the monitoring period. Turnover was defined as the addition of other landcover classes to the target landcover class during the defined monitoring period. These indicators allowed quick assessment of the dynamic nature of landcover classes, both in reference to a spatial location and to retaining their presence throughout the MRB. Examining the landcover changes between 1990 to 1993 and 1993 to 1996, led us to five principal findings: (1) Landcover turnover is maintaining a near stable logging cycle, although the locations of grassland, scrub shrub, and forest areas involved in the cycle appeared to change. (2) Planting of seedlings is critical to maintaining cycle stability. (3) Logging activities tend to replace woody land mixed forests with woody land evergreen forests. (4) Wetland estuarine marshes are expanding slightly. (5) Wetland palustrine marshes and mature forested wetlands in the MRB are relatively stable.
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Coastal change analysis program implemented in Louisiana