PE&RS July 2016 Public - page 579

forest, with many and larger gaps between trees, which led to
confusion of dead trees with such cover types as bare ground,
senescent grass, and decadent shrubs. The forests of Palomar
and Volcan consist of closed canopy groves, so the dead tree to
background (live tree) contrast is more distinct. These general
trends are also apparent for the spatial contextual classifier
results, although the accuracy differences are only statistically
significant between the Volcan and Laguna sites. Other factors
that may have influenced differences between study sites could
be differences in tree types, the physiological manifestation of
mortality, and the nature of the terrain within the study sites.
Summary and Conclusions
Spatial contextual machine learning (
) and object-based
approaches to image-based mapping of dead tree objects
yielded useful maps of dead tree locations, with the majority
of dead tree objects correctly mapped and with reasonable
commission errors. Procedures utilized to optimize each prod-
uct, such as masking techniques and the addition of spectral
transforms improved the classification products by 5 percent
to 10 percent, with an 8 percent to 13 percent reduction in
commission error. When comparing the two approaches, dead
conifer tree class accuracies are higher overall for the spatial
contextual approach than the object-based approach. The over-
all accuracies for both methods ranged between 30 percent to
90 percent for the dead tree class, but overall, the accuracies
were significantly higher for the spatial-contextual approach.
From a qualitative perspective, the spatial-contextual
approach produced greater object quality, and was a much
easier program to learn and implement. Manual editing of
map products helped to bring the classifications up to more
acceptable levels of accuracy for further analysis.
Accurate and timely tree mortality maps are needed for forest
management, especially in areas prone to drought and frequent
fires such as the montane areas of San Diego County. Digital im-
age classification is a viable method for producing these maps
from freely available high-spatial resolution aerial orthoimagery.
However, it is important to select appropriate image classifica-
tion techniques and spectral inputs to obtain the highest map
accuracy possible. Although tree mortality is inherently difficult
to map, two approaches have been demonstrated to yield maps
of dead tree objects such that the majority of dead tree objects
are detected and with reasonable commission error. Even
though some degree of visual interpretation and editing is likely
required to yield final products of sufficient reliability for exam-
ining spatial-temporal patterns of tree mortality, these semi-
automated image classification procedures are beneficial, in that
they are much more efficient at mapping dead tree objects than
using manual interpretation and digitizing methods only.
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