Wetland mapping at the landscape scale using remotely sensed data requires both affordable data and an efficient accurate classification method. Random forest classification offers several advantages over traditional land cover classification techniques, including a bootstrapping technique to generate robust estimations of outliers in the training data, as well as the capability of measuring classification confidence. Though the random forest classifier can generate complex decision trees with a multitude of input data and still not run a high risk of over fitting, there is a great need to reduce computational and operational costs by including only key input data sets without sacrificing a significant level of accuracy. Our main questions for this study site in Northern Minnesota were: (1) how does classification accuracy and confidence of mapping wetlands compare using different remote sensing platforms and sets of input data; (2) what are the key input variables for accurate differentiation of upland, water, and wetlands, including wetland type; and (3) which datasets and seasonal imagery yield the best accuracy for wetland classification. Our results show the key input variables include terrain (elevation and curvature) and soils descriptors (hydric), along with an assortment of remotely sensed data collected in the spring (satellite visible, near infrared, and thermal bands; satellite normalized vegetation index and Tasseled Cap greenness and wetness; and horizontal-horizontal (HH) and horizontal-vertical (HV) polarization using L-band satellite radar). We undertook this exploratory analysis to inform decisions by natural resource managers charged with monitoring wetland ecosystems and to aid in designing a system for consistent operational mapping of wetlands across landscapes similar to those found in Northern Minnesota.
Additional publication details
Influence of multi-source and multi-temporal remotely sensed and ancillary data on the accuracy of random forest classification of wetlands in northern Minnesota
Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center