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01-07-2008 | Issue 1/2008

Environmental Management 1/2008

Changes in Forest Area Along Stream Networks in an Agricultural Catchment of the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon

Journal:
Environmental Management > Issue 1/2008
Authors:
Stacy D. Jupiter, Guy S. Marion

Abstract

Scenes from the series of multispectral sensors on the Landsat satellites were used to map recent changes (between 1972 and 2004) in forest cover within and adjacent to stream networks of an intensively farmed region of the southern Great Barrier Reef catchment (Australia). Unsupervised ISODATA classifications of Tasseled-Cap transformed data (at 57 m ground resolution) mapped forest and cleared areas within 150 m of Pisoneer catchment waterways with 72.2% overall accuracy (K hat = 0.469), when adjusted for the size of each class. Although the user’s accuracy was higher for the forest class (82.1 ± 8.4% at α = 0.05), large errors of commission (34.2 ± 8.3%) substantially affected map accuracy for the cleared class. The main reasons for misclassification include: (1) failure to discriminate narrowly vegetated riparian strips; (2) misregistration of scenes; and (3) spectral similarity of ground cover. Error matrix probabilities were used to adjust the mapped area of classes, resulting in a decline of forest cover by 12.3% and increase of clearing by 18.5% (22.4 km2 change; 95% confidence interval: 14.3–29.6 km2) between 1972 and 2004. Despite the mapping errors, Landsat data were able to identify broad patterns of land cover change that were verified from aerial photography. Most of the forest losses occurred in open forest to woodland habitat dominated by Eucalyptus, Corymbia, and Lophostemon species, which were largely replaced by sugarcane cropping. Melaleuca communities were similarly affected, though they have a much smaller distribution in the catchment.

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