Morales, RM; Idol, T; Chen, Q (2012). Differentiation of Acacia koa forest stands across an elevation gradient in Hawai'i using fine-resolution remotely sensed imagery. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF REMOTE SENSING, 33(11), 3492-3511.
Koa (Acacia koa) forests are found across broad environmental gradients in the Hawaiian Islands. Previous studies have identified important environmental factors controlling stand structure and productivity at the plot level, but these have not been applied at the landscape level because of small-scale spatial variability. The goal of this study is to compare the differentiation of koa forest types across an elevation/temperature gradient ranging from 1200 to 2050 m asl (17-13 degrees C mean annual temperature (MAT)) through the analysis of field measurements of forest structure and fine-resolution remotely sensed imagery. Several vegetation indices (VIs) (atmospherically resistant vegetation index (ARVI), enhanced vegetation index (EVI), normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), soil-adjusted vegetation index (SAVI), modified soil-adjusted vegetation index (MSAVI), simple ratio (SR) and modified simple ratio (MSR)) are calculated from IKONOS satellite imagery of these stands and analysed using supervised classification techniques. This procedure allows a clear differentiation of koa stands from areas dominated by grasses, shrubs and bare lava. Across the elevation gradient, VIs allow differentiation of three koa forest stand classes at upper, intermediate and lower elevations. In agreement with the image classification, analysis of variance (ANOVA) of tree height and leaf phosphorus (P) suggests that there are also three significantly different groups of koa stands at those elevations. A landscape-scale map of land cover and koa stand classes demonstrates both the general trend with elevation and the small-scale heterogeneity that exists across the elevation gradient. Application of these classification techniques with fine spatial resolution imagery can improve the characterization of different koa stand types across the islands of Hawai'i, which should aid both the conservation and utilization of this ecologically important species.