Zhao, DH; Jiang, H; Yang, TW; Cai, Y; Xu, DL; An, SQ (2012). Remote sensing of aquatic vegetation distribution in Taihu Lake using an improved classification tree with modified thresholds. JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, 95(1), 98-107.
Classification trees (CT) have been used successfully in the past to classify aquatic vegetation from spectral indices (SI) obtained from remotely-sensed images. However, applying CT models developed for certain image dates to other time periods within the same year or among different years can reduce the classification accuracy. In this study, we developed CT models with modified thresholds using extreme SI values (CT(m)) to improve the stability of the models when applying them to different time periods. A total of 903 ground-truth samples were obtained in September of 2009 and 2010 and classified as emergent, floating-leaf, or submerged vegetation or other cover types. Classification trees were developed for 2009 (Model-09) and 2010 (Model-10) using field samples and a combination of two images from winter and summer. Overall accuracies of these models were 92.8% and 94.9%, respectively, which confirmed the ability of CT analysis to map aquatic vegetation in Taihu Lake. However, Model-10 had only 58.9-71.6% classification accuracy and 31.1-58.3% agreement (i.e., pixels classified the same in the two maps) for aquatic vegetation when it was applied to image pairs from both a different time period in 2010 and a similar time period in 2009. We developed a method to estimate the effects of extrinsic (EF) and intrinsic (IF) factors on model uncertainty using Modis images. Results indicated that 71.1% of the instability in classification between time periods was due to EF, which might include changes in atmospheric conditions, sun-view angle and water quality. The remainder was due to IF, such as phenological and growth status differences between time periods. The modified version of Model-10 (i.e. CT(m)) performed better than traditional CT with different image dates. When applied to 2009 images, the CT(m) version of Model-10 had very similar thresholds and performance as Model-09, with overall accuracies of 92.8% and 90.5% for Model-09 and the CT(m) version of Model-10, respectively. CT(m) decreased the variability related to EF and IF and thereby improved the applicability of the models to different time periods. In both practice and theory, our results suggested that CT(m) was more stable than traditional CT models and could be used to map aquatic vegetation in time periods other than the one for which the model was developed. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.