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Tracking Forest Change and Development Using Low-Cost Remote Sensing Imagery and GIS Integration

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Conversion of forestland to other uses is occurring in Maine as growing human populations and desire for second homes are exerting development pressures on privately owned forestland. This study was performed to assess forest cover change and conversion to developed uses in a 636,000-ha study area in Maine. A three-date time series (2000, 2002, and 2006) of Landsat Thematic Mapper data was analyzed to detect forest cover losses, and overall mapping accuracy was determined to be 91%. Forest cover losses (percentage per year) were aggregated for 81 townships and reported for each time sequence. Rates of forest cover loss differ among townships and for the same township in different time periods. Visual interpretation of forestland conversion using high-resolution images for a subsample of 24 townships showed that 305 of 4,716 harvested forest hectares (6.47%) was converted to developed uses. The study demonstrates the practical use of low-cost remote-sensing imagery and routine interpretation methods for accurate tracking of forest change and quantification of land use conversion. The methods are adaptable to other states to assist decisionmakers in assessing regional and local land use and planning forest conservation measures.
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Keywords: aerial photography; forest conversion; landsat; mapping accuracy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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    Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry covers northeastern, midwestern, and boreal forests in the United States and Canada.
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