Statistical models of fragmented land cover and the effect of coarse spatial resolution on the estimation of area with satellite sensor imagery
Abstract. The feasibility of correcting for errors in apparent extent of land cover types on coarse spatial resolution satellite imagery was analysed using a modelling approach. The size distributions for small burn scars mapped with two Landsat Multi-spectral Scanner (MSS) images and ponds mapped with an ERS-1 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) image were measured using geographical information system (GIS) software. Regression analysis showed that these size distributions could be modelled with two types of statistical distributions a power distribution and an exponential distribution. A comparison of the size distributions of small burn scars as observed with the Landsat MSS imagery to the distribution observed with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) imagery indicated that distortions due to the coarse spatial resolution of AVHRR caused overestimation of the burn area. This bias was primarily caused by detection in two or three AVHRR pixels of burns whose actual size was on the order of a single AVHRR pixel. Knowledge of the type of the actual size distribution of small fragments in a scene and the causes of distortion may lead to methods for correcting area estimates involving models of the size distribution observed with coarse imagery and requiring little or no recourse to fine scale data.