Potapov, P; Turubanova, S; Hansen, MC (2011). Regional-scale boreal forest cover and change mapping using Landsat data composites for European Russia. REMOTE SENSING OF ENVIRONMENT, 115(2), 548-561.
Boreal forests are a critical component of the global carbon cycle, and timely monitoring allows for assessing forest cover change and its impacts on carbon dynamics. Earth observation data sets are an important source of information that allow for systematic monitoring of the entire biome. Landsat imagery, provided free of charge by the USGS Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) enable consistent and timely forest cover updates. However, irregular image acquisition within parts of the boreal biome coupled with an absence of atmospherically corrected data hamper regional-scale monitoring efforts using Landsat imagery. A method of boreal forest cover and change mapping using Landsat imagery has been developed and tested within European Russia between circa year 2000 and 2005. The approach employs a multi-year compositing methodology adapted for incomplete annual data availability, within-region variation in growing season length and frequent cloud cover. Relative radiometric normalization and cloud/shadow data screening algorithms were employed to create seamless image composites with remaining cloud/shadow contamination of less than 0.5% of the total composite area. Supervised classification tree algorithms were applied to the time-sequential image composites to characterize forest cover and gross forest loss over the study period. Forest cover results when compared to independently-derived samples of Landsat data have high agreement (overall accuracy of 89%, Kappa of 0.78), and conform with official forest cover statistics of the Russian government. Gross forest cover loss regional-scale mapping results are comparable with individual Landsat image pair change detection (overall accuracy of 98%, Kappa of 0.71). The gross forest cover loss within European Russia 2000-2005 is estimated to be 2210 thousand hectares, and constitutes a 1.5% reduction of year 2000 forest cover. At the regional scale, the highest proportional forest cover loss is estimated for the most populated regions (Leningradskaya and Moskovskaya Oblast). Our results highlight the forest cover depletion around large industrial cities as the hotspot of forest cover change in European Russia. (C) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.