Jing, L; Zhou, Y; Zeng, Q; Liu, SG; Lei, GC; Lu, C; Wen, L (2020). Exploring Wetland Dynamics in Large River Floodplain Systems with Unsupervised Machine Learning: A Case Study of the Dongting Lake, China. REMOTE SENSING, 12(18), 2995.

Large river floodplain systems (LRFS) are among the most diverse and dynamic ecosystems. Accurately monitoring the dynamics of LRFS over long time series is fundamental and essential for their sustainable development. However, challenges remain because the spatial distribution of LRFS is never static due to inter- and intra-annual changes in environmental conditions. In this study, we developed and tested a methodological framework to re-construct the long-term wetland dynamics in Dongting Lake, China, utilizing an unsupervised machine-learning algorithm (UMLA) on the basis of MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) EVI (Enhanced Vegetation Index) time series. Our results showed that the UMLA achieved comparable performance to the time-consuming satellite image segmentation method with a Kappa coefficient of agreement greater than 0.75 and an overall accuracy over 85%. With the re-constructed annual wetland distribution maps, we found that 31.35% of wet meadows, one of most important ecological assets in the region, disappeared at an average rate of c.a. 1660 ha year(-1)during the past two decades, which suggests that the Dongting Lake is losing its ecological function of providing wintering ground for migratory water birds, and remediation management actions are urgently required. We concluded that UMLA offers a fast and cost-efficient alternative to monitor ecological responses in a rapidly changing environment.