Multispectral approach for identifying invasive plant species based on flowering phenology characteristics.
Invasive plant species (IPS) are the second biggest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss. Since the spatial extent of IPS is essential for managing the invaded ecosystem, the current study aims at identifying and mapping the aggressive IPS of Acacia salicina and Acacia saligna, to understand better the key factors influencing their distribution in the coastal plain of Israel. This goal was achieved by integrating airborne-derived hyperspectral imaging and multispectral earth observation for creating species distribution maps. Hyperspectral data, in conjunction with high spatial resolution species distribution maps, were used to train the multispectral images at the species level. We incorporated a series of statistical models to classify the IPS location and to recognize their distribution and density. We took advantage of the phenological flowering stages of Acacia trees, as obtained by the multispectral images, for the support vector machine classification procedure. The classification yielded an overall Kappa coefficient accuracy of 0.89. We studied the effect of various environmental and human factors on IPS density by using a random forest machine learning model, to understand the mechanisms underlying successful invasions, and to assess where IPS have a higher likelihood of occurring. This algorithm revealed that the high density of Acacia most closely related to elevation, temperature pattern, and distances from rivers, settlements, and roads. Our results demonstrate how the integration of remote-sensing data with different data sources can assist in determining IPS proliferation and provide detailed geographic information for conservation and management efforts to prevent their future spread.