A Neural Network Method for Mixture Estimation for Vegetation Mapping
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While most forest maps identify only the dominant vegetation class in delineated stands, individual stands are often better characterized by a mix of vegetation types. Many land management applications, including wildlife habitat studies, can benefit from knowledge of mixes. This paper examines various algorithms that use data from the Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) satellite to estimate mixtures of vegetation types within forest stands. Included in the study are maximum likelihood classification and linear mixture models as well as a new methodology based on the ARTMAP neural network. Two paradigms are considered: classification methods, which describe stand-level vegetation mixtures as mosaics of pixels, each identified with its primary vegetation class; and mixture methods, which treat samples as blends of vegetation, even at the pixel level. Comparative analysis of these mixture estimation methods, tested on data from the Plumas National Forest, yields the following conclusions: (1) accurate estimates of proportions of hardwood and conifer cover within stands can be obtained, particularly when brush is not present in the understory; (2) ARTMAP outperforms statistical methods and linear mixture models in both the classification and the mixture paradigms; (3) topographic correction fails to improve mapping accuracy; and (4) the new ARTMAP mixture system produces the most accurate overall results. The Plumas data set has been made available to other researchers for further development of new mapping methods and comparison with the quantitative studies presented here, which establish initial benchmark standards.