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A Bayesian approach to multi-source forest area estimation

Finley, Andrew O., Banerjee, Sudipto, McRoberts, Ronald E.
Environmental and ecological statistics 2008 v.15 no.2 pp. 241
forest inventory, forests, vegetation cover, land use, Landsat, image analysis, remote sensing, statistical models, prediction, data analysis, spatial data
In efforts such as land use change monitoring, carbon budgeting, and forecasting ecological conditions and timber supply, there is increasing demand for regional and national data layers depicting forest cover. These data layers must permit small area estimates of forest area and, most importantly, provide associated error estimates. This paper presents a model-based approach for coupling mid-resolution satellite imagery with plot-based forest inventory data to produce estimates of probability of forest and associated error at the pixel-level. The proposed Bayesian hierarchical model provides access to each pixel's posterior predictive distribution allowing for a highly flexible analysis of pixel and multi-pixel areas of interest. The paper presents a trial using multiple dates of Landsat imagery and USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis plot data. The results describe the spatial dependence structure within the trial site, provide pixel and multi-pixel summaries of probability of forest land use, and explore discretization schemes of the posterior predictive distributions to forest and non-forest classes. Model prediction results of a holdout set analysis suggest the proposed model provides high classification accuracy, 88%, for the trial site.