30-year changes of natural forests under human activities in the Indochina peninsula - case studies in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam
Keywords:Natural forest, landsat, time series, simplified spectral patterns, automated classification, human activity, phenology
Natural forests are a basic component of the earth's ecology. It is essential for biodiversity, hydrological cycle regulation, and environmental protection. Natural forests are gradually degraded and reduced due to timber logging, conversion to cropland, production forests, commodity trees, and infrastructure development. Decreasing natural forests results in loss of valuable habitats, land degradation, soil erosion, and imbalance of water cycle on the regional scale. Thus, operational monitoring of natural forest cover change has been in the interest of scientists for a long time. Current forest mapping methods using remotely sensed data provide limited capability to separate natural forests and planted forests. Natural forest statistics are often generated using official forestry national reports that have different bias levels due to different methodologies applied in different countries in forest inventory. Over the last couple of decades, natural forests have been over-exploited for various reasons. This led to forest cover degradation and water regulation capability, which results in extreme floods and drought of a watershed in general. This situation demands an urgent need to develop a fast, reliable, and automated method for mapping natural forests. In this study, by applying a new method for mapping natural forests by Landsat time series, the authors succeeded in mapping changes of natural forests of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam from 1989 to 2018. As a focused study area, three provinces: Ratanakiri of Cambodia, Attapeu of Laos, and Kon Tum of Vietnam were selected. The study reveals that after 30 years, 51.3% of natural forests in Ratanakiri, 27.8% of natural forests in Attapeu, and 50% of natural forests in Kon Tum were lost. Classification results were validated using high spatial resolution imagery of Google Earth. The overall accuracy of 99.3% for the year 2018 was achieved.
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