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Distinguishing wetland vegetation and channel features with object-based image segmentation

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Mapping landscape features within wetlands using remote-sensing imagery is a persistent challenge due to the fine scale of wetland pattern variation and the low spectral contrast among plant species. Object-based image analysis (OBIA) is a promising approach for distinguishing wetland features, but systematic guidance for this use of OBIA is not presently available. A sensitivity analysis was tested using OBIA to distinguish vegetation zones, vegetation patches, and surface water channels in two intertidal salt marshes in southern San Francisco Bay. Optimal imagery sources and OBIA segmentation settings were determined from 348 sensitivity tests using the eCognition multiresolution segmentation algorithm. The optimal high-resolution (≤1 m) imagery choices were colour infrared (CIR) imagery to distinguish vegetation zones, CIR or red, green, blue (RGB) imagery to distinguish vegetation patches depending on species and season, and RGB imagery to distinguish surface water channels. High-resolution (1 m) lidar data did not help distinguish small surface water channels or other features. Optimal segmentation varied according to segmentation setting choices. Small vegetation patches and narrow channels were more recognizable using small scale parameter settings and coarse vegetation zones using larger scale parameter settings. The scale parameter served as a de facto lower bound to median segmented object size. Object smoothness/compactness weight settings had little effect. Wetland features were more recognizable using high colour/low shape weight settings. However, an experiment on a synthetic non-wetland image demonstrated that, colour information notwithstanding, segmentation results are still strongly affected by the selected image resolution, OBIA settings, and shape of the analysis region. Future wetland OBIA studies may benefit from strategically making imagery and segmentation setting choices based on these results; such systemization of future wetland OBIA approaches may also enhance study comparability.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geological Sciences,The University of Texas at Austin, Austin,TX, USA 2: Department of Environmental Earth System Science,Stanford University, Stanford,CA, USA

Publication date: 2013-02-20

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