Mapping vegetation at species level with high-resolution multispectral and Lidar data over a large spatial area: a case study with Kudzu.
Mapping vegetation species is critical to facilitate related quantitative assessment, and mapping invasive plants is important to enhance monitoring and management activities. Integrating high-resolution multispectral remote-sensing (RS) images and lidar (light detection and ranging) point clouds can provide robust features for vegetation mapping. However, using multiple sources of high-resolution RS data for vegetation mapping on a large spatial scale can be both computationally and sampling intensive. Here, we designed a two-step classification workflow to potentially decrease computational cost and sampling effort and to increase classification accuracy by integrating multispectral and lidar data in order to derive spectral, textural, and structural features for mapping target vegetation species. We used this workflow to classify kudzu, an aggressive invasive vine, in the entire Knox County (1362 km2) of Tennessee (U.S.). Object-based image analysis was conducted in the workflow. The first-step classification used 320 kudzu samples and extensive, coarsely labeled samples (based on national land cover) to generate an overprediction map of kudzu using random forest (RF). For the second step, 350 samples were randomly extracted from the overpredicted kudzu and labeled manually for the final prediction using RF and support vector machine (SVM). Computationally intensive features were only used for the second-step classification. SVM had constantly better accuracy than RF, and the producer's accuracy, user's accuracy, and Kappa for the SVM model on kudzu were 0.94, 0.96, and 0.90, respectively. SVM predicted 1010 kudzu patches covering 1.29 km2 in Knox County. We found the sample size of kudzu used for algorithm training impacted the accuracy and number of kudzu predicted. The proposed workflow could also improve sampling efficiency and specificity. Our workflow had much higher accuracy than the traditional method conducted in this research, and could be easily implemented to map kudzu in other regions as well as map other vegetation species.