Heremans, S; Bossyns, B; Eerens, H; Van Orshoven, J (2011). Efficient collection of training data for sub-pixel land cover classification using neural networks. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF APPLIED EARTH OBSERVATION AND GEOINFORMATION, 13(4), 657-667.
Artificial neural networks (ANNs) are a popular class of techniques for performing soft classifications of satellite images. They have successfully been applied for estimating crop areas through sub-pixel classification of medium to low resolution images. Before a network can be used for classification and estimation, however, it has to be trained. The collection of the reference area fractions needed to train an ANN is often both time-consuming and expensive. This study focuses on strategies for decreasing the efforts needed to collect the necessary reference data, without compromising the accuracy of the resulting area estimates. Two aspects were studied: the spatial sampling scheme (i) and the possibility for reusing trained networks in multiple consecutive seasons (ii). Belgium was chosen as the study area because of the vast amount of reference data available. Time series of monthly NDVI composites for both SPOT-VGT and MODIS were used as the network inputs. The results showed that accurate regional crop area estimation (R(2) > 80%) is possible using only 1% of the entire area for network training, provided that the training samples used are representative for the land use variability present in the study area. Limiting the training samples to a specific subset of the population, either geographically or thematically, significantly decreased the accuracy of the estimates. The results also indicate that the use of ANNs trained with data from one season to estimate area fractions in another season is not to be recommended. The interannual variability observed in the endmembers' spectral signatures underlines the importance of using up-to-date training samples. It can thus be concluded that the representativeness of the training samples, both regarding the spatial and the temporal aspects, is an important issue in crop area estimation using ANNs that should not easily be ignored. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.