The utility of Random Forests for wildfire severity mapping

Collins, L, Griffioen, P, Newell, G and Mellor, A 2018, 'The utility of Random Forests for wildfire severity mapping', Remote Sensing of Environment, vol. 216, pp. 374-384.

Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title The utility of Random Forests for wildfire severity mapping
Author(s) Collins, L
Griffioen, P
Newell, G
Mellor, A
Year 2018
Journal name Remote Sensing of Environment
Volume number 216
Start page 374
End page 384
Total pages 11
Publisher Elsevier
Abstract Reliable fire severity mapping is a vital resource for fire scientists and land management agencies globally. Satellite derived pre- and post-fire differenced severity indices (?FSI), such as the differenced Normalised Burn Ratio (?NBR), are widely used to map the severity of large wildfires. Fire severity classification is commonly undertaken through the identification of severity class thresholds in ?FSI. However, several shortcomings have been identified with severity classifications using ?FSI, including poor delineation of low fire severity classes, and unsatisfactory performance when ?FSI classification thresholds are applied to new landscapes. Our study assesses the performance of the Random Forest classifier (RF) for improving the accuracy of satellite based wildfire severity mapping across heterogeneous landscapes using Landsat imagery. We collected point based fire severity training data (n = 10,855) from sixteen large wildfires occurring across south-eastern Australia between 2006 and 2016. The predictive accuracy of fire severity classification using ?NBR and the RF incorporating numerous spectral indices, was assessed using bootstrapping and cross validation. Image acquisition and index calculation for each fire was undertaken in Google Earth Engine (GEE). Results of the bootstrapping validation show that the RF classifier had very high classification accuracy (>95%) for unburnt (UB), crown scorch (CS) and crown consumption (CC) severity classes, and high classification accuracy (>74%) for low severity classes (crown unburnt, CU; partial crown scorch, PCS). The RF classification outperformed the ?NBR classification for all severity classes, increasing classification accuracy by between 6%21%. Cross validation using independent fires produced similar median classification accuracy as the bootstrapping validation, though the RF classification of CU was substantially reduced to ~55%. ?NBR, ?NDWI and ?NDVI were the three most important variables in the RF
Subject Environmental Sciences not elsewhere classified
Biological Sciences not elsewhere classified
Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences not elsewhere classified
Keyword(s) Google Earth Engine
Machine learning
Normalised Burn Ratio
Temperate forests
Wildfire severity
DOI - identifier 10.1016/j.rse.2018.07.005
Copyright notice Crown Copyright © 2018 Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
ISSN 0034-4257
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