An investigation into using textural analysis and change detection techniques on medium and high spatial resolution imagery for monitoring plantation forestry operations.
Plantation forestry involves the management of man-made industrial forests for the purpose of producing raw materials for the pulp and paper, saw milling and other related wood products industries. Management of these forests is based on the cycle of planting, tending and felling of forest stands such that a sustainable operation is maintained. The monitoring and reporting of these forestry operations is critical to the successful management of the forestry industry. The aim of this study was to test whether the forestry operations of clear-felling, re-establishment and weed control could be qualitatively and quantitatively monitored through the application of classification and change detection techniques to multi-temporal medium (15-30 m) and a combination of textural analysis and change detection techniques on high resolution (0.6-2.4 m) satellite imagery. For the medium resolution imagery, four Landsat 7 multi-spectral images covering the period from March 2002 to April 2003 were obtained over the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and a supervised classification, based on the Maximum Likelihood classifier, as well as two unsupervised classification routines were applied to each of these images. The supervised classification routine used 12 classes identified from ground-truthing data, while the unsupervised classification was done using 10 and 4 classes. NDVI was also calculated and used to estimate vegetation status. Three change detection techniques were applied to the unsupervised classification images, in order to determine where clear-felling, planting and weed control operations had occurred. An Assisted "Classified" Image change detection technique was applied to the Ten-Class Unsupervised Classification images, while an Assisted "Quantified Classified" change detection technique was applied to the Four-Class Unsupervised Classification images. An Image differencing technique was applied to the NDVI images. For the high resolution imagery, a series of QuickBird images of a plantation forestry site were used and a combination of textural analysis and change detection techniques was tested to quantify weed development in replanted forest stands less than 24 months old. This was achieved by doing an unsupervised classification on the multi-spectral bands, and an edge-enhancement on the panchromatic band. Both the resultant datasets were then vectorised, unioned and a matrix derived to determine areas of high weed. It was found that clear-felling operations could be identified with accuracy in excess of 95%. However, using medium resolution imagery, newly planted areas and the weed status of forest stands were not definitively identified as the spatial resolution was too coarse to separate weed growth from tree stands. Planted stands younger than one year tended to be classified in the same class as bare ground or ground covered with dead branches and leaves, even if weeds were present. Stands older than one year tended to be classified together in the same class as weedy stands, even where weeds were not present. The NDVI results indicated that further research into this aspect could provide more useful information regarding the identification of weed status in forest stands. Using the multi-spectral bands of the high resolution imagery it was possible to identify areas of strong vegetation, while crop rows were identifiable on the panchromatic band. By combining these two attributes, areas of high weed growth could be identified. By applying a post-classification change detection technique on the high weed growth classes, it was possible to identify and quantify areas of weed increase or decrease between consecutive images. A theoretical canopy model was also derived to test whether it could identify thresholds from which weed infestations could be determined. The conclusions of this study indicated that medium resolution imagery was successful in accurately identifying clear-felled stands, but the high resolution imagery was required to identify replanted stands, and the weed status of those stands. However, in addition to identifying the status of these stands, it was also possible to quantify the level of weed infestation. Only wattle (Acacia mearnsii) stands were tested in this manner but it was recommended that in addition to applying these procedures to wattle stands, they also are tested in Eucalyptus and Pinus stands. The combination of textural analysis on the panchromatic band and classification of multi-spectral bands was found to be a suitable process to achieve the aims of this study, and as such were recommended as standard procedures that could be applied in an operational plantation forest monitoring environment.