Near real-time monitoring of forest disturbance: a multi-sensor remote sensing approach and assessment framework
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Fast and accurate monitoring of tropical forest disturbance is essential for understanding current patterns of deforestation as well as helping eliminate illegal logging. This dissertation explores the use of data from different satellites for near real-time monitoring of forest disturbance in tropical forests, including: development of new monitoring methods; development of new assessment methods; and assessment of the performance and operational readiness of existing methods. Current methods for accuracy assessment of remote sensing products do not address the priority of near real-time monitoring of detecting disturbance events as early as possible. I introduce a new assessment framework for near real-time products that focuses on the timing and the minimum detectable size of disturbance events. The new framework reveals the relationship between change detection accuracy and the time needed to identify events. In regions that are frequently cloudy, near real-time monitoring using data from a single sensor is difficult. This study extends the work by Xin et al. (2013) and develops a new time series method (Fusion2) based on fusion of Landsat and MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) data. Results of three test sites in the Amazon Basin show that Fusion2 can detect 44.4% of the forest disturbance within 13 clear observations (82 days) after the initial disturbance. The smallest event detected by Fusion2 is 6.5 ha. Also, Fusion2 detects disturbance faster and has less commission error than more conventional methods. In a comparison of coarse resolution sensors, MODIS Terra and Aqua combined provides faster and more accurate detection of disturbance events than VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) and MODIS single sensor data. The performance of near real-time monitoring using VIIRS is slightly worse than MODIS Terra but significantly better than MODIS Aqua. New monitoring methods developed in this dissertation provide forest protection organizations the capacity to monitor illegal logging events promptly. In the future, combining two Landsat and two Sentinel-2 satellites will provide global coverage at 30 m resolution every 4 days, and routine monitoring may be possible at high resolution. The methods and assessment framework developed in this dissertation are adaptable to newly available datasets.