Mapping with Landsat images usually is done by selecting single types of features, such as soils, vegetation, or rocks, and creating visually interpreted or digitally classified maps of each feature. Individual maps can then be overlaid on or combined with other maps to characterize the terrain. Integrated terrain mapping combines several terrain features into each map unit which, in many cases, is more directly related to uses of the land and to methods of land management than the single features alone. Terrain brightness, as measured by the multispectral scanners in Landsat 1 and 2, represents an integration of reflectance from the terrain features within the scanner's instantaneous field of view and is therefore more correlatable with integrated terrain units than with differentiated ones, such as rocks, soils, and vegetation.
A test of the feasibilty of the technique of mapping integrated terrain units was conducted in a part of southwestern Queensland, Australia, in cooperation with scientists of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries. The primary purpose was to test the use of digital classification techniques to create a 'land systems map' usable for grazing land management. A recently published map of 'land systems' in the area (made by aerial photograph interpretation and ground surveys), which are integrated terrain units composed of vegetation, soil, topography, and geomorphic features, was used as a basis for comparison with digitally classified Landsat multispectral images. The land systems, in turn, each have a specific grazing capacity for cattle (expressed in beasts per km 2 ) which is estimated following analysis of both research results and property carrying capacities.
Landsat images, in computer-compatible tape form, were first contrast-stretched to increase their visual interpretability, and digitally classified by the parallelepiped method into distinct spectral classes to determine their correspondence to the land systems classes and to areally smaller, but readily recognizable, 'land units.'
Many land systems appeared as distinct spectral classes or as acceptably homogeneous combinations of several spectral classes. The digitally classified map corresponded to the general geographic patterns of many of the land systems. Statistical correlation of the digitally classified map and the published map was not possible because the published map showed only land systems whereas the digitally classified map showed some land units as well as systems.
The general correspondence of spectral classes to the integrated terrain units means that the digital mapping of the units may precede fieldwork and act as a guide to field sampling and detailed terrain unit description as well as measuring of the location, area, and extent of each unit.
Extension of the Landsat mapping and classification technique to other arid and semi-arid regions of the world may be feasible.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Integrated terrain mapping with digital Landsat images in Queensland, Australia