Historical tropical successional forest cover mapped with Landsat MSS imagery

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Maps of tropical successional forest cover of the 1970s and 1980s are needed for long-term modelling of tropical forest-cover change, carbon flux and habitat change. Landsat Multispectral Scanner System (MSS) imagery may provide a basis for such maps, but its capability in this respect is poorly unexplored if not discounted. This article examines how reliably single-date MSS imagery may distinguish tropical successional forest. Statistical and graphical analyses of 2043 MSS pixels of successional forest cover, pasture and mature forest cover of Central Panama indicate that successional forest may be accurately mapped, with a maximum-likelihood classification accuracy of 86–90%. Detectable successional cover is unlikely to be older than 10 years approximately. These findings indicate that MSS imagery may provide a new baseline for historical mapping and long-term modelling of tropical forest-cover change that, unlike that of Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) imagery used for this purpose, is amenable to fine-scale spatial analysis and reliable accuracy assessment.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01431161.2012.703344

Affiliations: Department of Resource Management and Geography,University of Melbourne, Carlton,VIC 3010, Australia

Publication date: December 20, 2012

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