Multi-spectral remote sensing of native vegetation condition

Sheffield, K 2009, Multi-spectral remote sensing of native vegetation condition, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Multi-spectral remote sensing of native vegetation condition
Author(s) Sheffield, K
Year 2009
Abstract Native vegetation condition provides an indication of the state of vegetation health or function relative to a stated objective or benchmark. Measures of vegetation condition provide an indication of the vegetation's capacity to provide habitat for a range of species and ecosystem functions through the assessment of selected vegetation attributes. Subsets of vegetation attributes are often combined into vegetation condition indices or metrics, which are used to provide information for natural resource management.

Despite their value as surrogates of biota and ecosystem function, measures of vegetation condition are rarely used to inform biodiversity assessments at scales beyond individual stands. The extension of vegetation condition information across landscapes, and approaches for achieving this, using remote sensing technologies, is a key focus of the work presented in this thesis.

The aim of this research is to assess the utility of multi-spectral remotely sensed data for the recovery of stand-level attributes of native vegetation condition at landscape scales. The use of remotely sensed data for the assessment of vegetation condition attributes in fragmented landscapes is a focus of this study. The influence of a number of practical issues, such as spatial scale and ground data sampling methodology, are also explored. This study sets limitations on the use of this technology for vegetation condition assessment and also demonstrates the practical impact of data quality issues that are frequently encountered in these types of applied integrated approaches.

The work presented in this thesis demonstrates that while some measures of vegetation condition, such as vegetation cover and stem density, are readily recoverable from multi-spectral remotely sensed data, others, such as hollow-bearing trees and log length, are not easily derived from this type of data. The types of information derived from remotely sensed data, such as texture measures and vegetation indices, that are useful for vegetation condition assessments of this nature are also highlighted.

The utility of multi-spectral remotely sensed data for the assessment of stand-level vegetation condition attributes is highly dependent on a number of factors including the type of attribute being measured, the characteristics of the vegetation, the sensor characteristics (i.e. the spatial, spectral, temporal, and radiometric resolution), and other spatial data quality considerations, such as site homogeneity and spatial scale. A series of case studies are presented in this thesis that explores the effects of these factors. These case studies demonstrate the importance of different aspects of spatial data and how data manipulation can greatly affect the derived relationships between vegetation attributes and remotely sensed data.

The work documented in this thesis provides an assessment of what can be achieved from two sources of multi-spectral imagery in terms of recovery of individual vegetation attributes from remotely sensed data. Potential surrogate measures of vegetation condition that can be derived across broad scales are identified. This information could provide a basis for the development of landscape scale multi-spectral remotely sensed based vegetation condition assessment approaches, supplementing information provided by established site-based vegetation condition assessment approaches.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences
Keyword(s) Remote sensing data processing
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