Mapping Regional Distribution of a Single Tree Species: Whitebark Pine in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Sensors (Basel). 2008 Aug 25;8(8):4983-4994. doi: 10.3390/s8084983.


Moderate resolution satellite imagery traditionally has been thought to be inadequate for mapping vegetation at the species level. This has made comprehensive mapping of regional distributions of sensitive species, such as whitebark pine, either impractical or extremely time consuming. We sought to determine whether using a combination of moderate resolution satellite imagery (Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus), extensive stand data collected by land management agencies for other purposes, and modern statistical classification techniques (boosted classification trees) could result in successful mapping of whitebark pine. Overall classification accuracies exceeded 90%, with similar individual class accuracies. Accuracies on a localized basis varied based on elevation. Accuracies also varied among administrative units, although we were not able to determine whether these differences related to inherent spatial variations or differences in the quality of available reference data.

Keywords: Landsat; Remote sensing; See5; Yellowstone; boosting; classification trees.