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Using satellite remote sensing for DEM extraction in complex mountainous terrain: landscape analysis of the Makalu Barun National Park of eastern Nepal

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The design and management of national parks and other protected areas requires a broad base of physiographic and geo-ecological information about the landscape. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of satellite remote sensing for photogrammetric stereo-mapping and digital elevation model (DEM) extraction within remote mountainous terrain. As a case study, a landscape analysis of the Makalu Barun National Park and Conservation Area of east Nepal (27.5° N, 87.0° E) was examined. The study area is a highly complex and rugged mountain landscape, with extreme topographic relief and an elevation gradient spanning more than 8300 m. A DEM extracted from stereo SPOT imagery resulted in a median disagreement of 58 m when compared to a DEM generated from a conventionally digitized GIS dataset of topographic contours (scale=1:250 000). Visual comparison of the two DEMs showed substantial agreement at the landscape scale, while larger scale comparison of 100 m contours revealed some localized differences. The SPOT extracted DEM provided equal or better basis for orthorectification of satellite imagery when compared to the conventional DEM. Derivative landscape analysis outputs, such as hydrological modelling, drainage networks and watershed boundaries, compared well with results based upon the conventional dataset. Intermediate map products useful for field research and mapping included production of an orthorectified satellite base-map image. Additionally, a fused multisensor high resolution image of the study area, combining Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) and SPOT imagery at 10 m resolution, was orthorectified to produce a false-colour satellite image map highlighting the spectral discrimination between land cover classes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 15, 2002

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