Monitoring the composition of urban environments based on the vegetation-impervious surface-soil (VIS) model by subpixel analysis techniques
The majority of the world's population now resides in urban environments and information on the internal composition and dynamics of these environments is essential to enable preservation of certain standards of living. Remotely sensed data, especially the global coverage of moderate spatial resolution satellites such as Landsat, Indian Resource Satellite and Système Pour l'Observation de la Terre (SPOT), offer a highly useful data source for mapping the composition of these cities and examining their changes over time. The utility and range of applications for remotely sensed data in urban environments could be improved with a more appropriate conceptual model relating urban environments to the sampling resolutions of imaging sensors and processing routines. Hence, the aim of this work was to take the Vegetation-Impervious surface-Soil (VIS) model of urban composition and match it with the most appropriate image processing methodology to deliver information on VIS composition for urban environments. Several approaches were evaluated for mapping the urban composition of Brisbane city (south-east Queensland, Australia) using Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper data and 1:5000 aerial photographs. The methods evaluated were: image classification; interpretation of aerial photographs; and constrained linear mixture analysis. Over 900 reference sample points on four transects were extracted from the aerial photographs and used as a basis to check output of the classification and mixture analysis. Distinctive zonations of VIS related to urban composition were found in the per-pixel classification and aggregated air-photo interpretation; however, significant spectral confusion also resulted between classes. In contrast, the VIS fraction images produced from the mixture analysis enabled distinctive densities of commercial, industrial and residential zones within the city to be clearly defined, based on their relative amount of vegetation cover. The soil fraction image served as an index for areas being (re)developed. The logical match of a low (L)-resolution, spectral mixture analysis approach with the moderate spatial resolution image data, ensured the processing model matched the spectrally heterogeneous nature of the urban environments at the scale of Landsat Thematic Mapper data.