Updating the Welsh Phase 1 Habitat Map using remotely sensed Earth Observation data

The project was undertaken as a close collaboration between Aberystwyth University and Environment Systems Ltd funded by the Countryside Council of Wales, now Natural Resources Wales (NRW). This project is a great example of academia and industrial collaborating with the project starting out as research within the Earth Observation and Ecosystem Dynamics (EOED) research group before moving into a commercial project to produce the new final map product.

The Phase 1 Survey is the most comprehensive and widely used national level map of semi-natural habitats in Wales. However, the survey was based largely on field survey and was conducted over several decades, before being completed in 1997. Given that resources for a repeat survey were limited, this study has used an object-orientated rule-based classification implemented within eCognition of multi-temporal satellite sensor data acquired between 2003 and 2006 to map semi-natural habitats and agricultural land across Wales, thereby allowing a progressive update of the Phase 1 Survey. The classification of objects to Phase 1 habitat classes was undertaken in two steps; firstly the landscape of Wales was divided into objects using orthorectified SPOT-5 High Resolution Geometric (HRG) reflectance data (10 m spatial resolution) and Land Parcel Information System (LPIS) boundaries. A rule-base was then developed to progressively discriminate and map the distribution of 105 sub-habitats across Wales based on time- series of SPOT HRG, Terra-1 Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) and Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) LISS-3 data, derived datasets (e.g., vegetation indices, fractional images) and ancillary information (e.g., topography). The rules coupled knowledge of ecology and the information content of these remote sensing data using a combination of thresholds, Boolean operations and fuzzy membership functions. A second rule-base was then developed to translate the more detailed sub-habitat classification to Phase 1 habitat classes. Indicative accuracies of the revised Phase 1 mapping, based on comparisons with the later Phase 2 survey (for selected habitats), were >80% overall and typically between 70% and 90% for many classes. Through this exercise, Wales has become the first country in Europe to produce a national map of habitats (as opposed to land cover) through object- orientated classification of satellite sensor data. Furthermore, the approach can be adapted to allow continual monitoring of the extent and condition of habitats and agricultural land.

Lucas, R., Medcalf, K., Brown, A., Bunting, P., Breyer, J., Clewley, D., Keyworth, S., and Blackmore, P. (2011). Updating the Phase 1 habitat map of Wales, UK, using satellite sensor data. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing66(1), 81–102. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2010.09.004

Lucas, R., Rowlands, A., Brown, A., Keyworth, S., & Bunting, P. (2007). Rule-based classification of multi-temporal satellite imagery for habitat and agricultural land cover mapping. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing62(3), 165–185. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2007.03.003

CONTACT: Pete Bunting & Steve Keyworth (Environment Systems)