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Integrating field data with high spatial resolution multispectral satellite imagery for calibration and validation of coral reef benthic community maps

By Chris Roelfsema and Stuart Phinn


Our ability to map coral reef environments using remote sensing has increased through improved access to: satellite images and field survey data at suitable spatial scales, and software enabling the integration of data sources. These data sets can be used to provide validated maps to support science and management decisions. The objective of this paper was to compare two methods for calibrating and validating maps of coral reef benthic communities derived from satellite images captured over a variety of Coral Reefs The two methods for collecting georeferenced benthic field data were: 1), georeferenced photo transects and 2), spot checks. Quickbird imagery was acquired for three Fijian coral reef environments in: Suva, Navakavu and Solo. These environments had variable water clarity and spatial complexity of benthic cover composition. The two field data sets at each reef were each split, and half were used for training data sets for supervised classifications, and the other half for accuracy assessment. This resulted in two maps of benthic communities with associated mapping accuracies, production times and costs for each study-site. Analyses of the spatial patterns in benthic community maps and their Overall and Tau accuracies revealed that for spatially complex habitats, the maps produced from photo transect data were twice as accurate as spot check based maps. In the context of the reefs examined, our results showed that the photo- transect method was a robust procedure which could be used in a range of coral reef environments to map the benthic communities accurately. In contrast, the spot check method is a fast and low cost approach, suitable for mapping benthic communities which have lower spatial complexity. Our findings will enable scientists, technicians and managers to select appropriate methods for collecting field data to integrate with high spatial resolution multi-spectral imagery to create validated coral reef benthic community maps. © 2010 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineer

Topics: Coral reefs, Photo transects, Spot check, Coral-seagrass community maps, 1900 Earth and Planetary Sciences
Publisher: SPIE - International Society for Optical Engineering
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1117/1.3430107
OAI identifier:

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