MAPPING DISTURBANCE DYNAMICS IN WET SCLEROPHYLL FORESTS USING TIME SERIES LANDSAT
Keywords: forest disturbance; Central Highlands; open-source; random forests; timber harvesting; fire
Abstract. In this study, we characterised the temporal-spectral patterns associated with identifying acute-severity disturbances and low-severity disturbances between 1985 and 2011 with the objective to test whether different disturbance agents within these categories can be identified with annual Landsat time series data. We analysed a representative State forest within the Central Highlands which has been exposed to a range of disturbances over the last 30 years, including timber harvesting (clearfell, selective and thinning) and fire (wildfire and prescribed burning). We fitted spectral time series models to annual normal burn ratio (NBR) and Tasseled Cap Indices (TCI), from which we extracted a range of disturbance and recovery metrics. With these metrics, three hierarchical random forest models were trained to 1) distinguish acute-severity disturbances from low-severity disturbances; 2a) attribute the disturbance agents most likely within the acute-severity class; 2b) and attribute the disturbance agents most likely within the low-severity class. Disturbance types (acute severity and low-severity) were successfully mapped with an overall accuracy of 72.9 %, and the individual disturbance types were successfully attributed with overall accuracies ranging from 53.2 % to 64.3 %. Low-severity disturbance agents were successfully mapped with an overall accuracy of 80.2 %, and individual agents were successfully attributed with overall accuracies ranging from 25.5 % to 95.1. Acute-severity disturbance agents were successfully mapped with an overall accuracy of 95.4 %, and individual agents were successfully attributed with overall accuracies ranging from 94.2 % to 95.2 %. Spectral metrics describing the disturbance magnitude were more important for distinguishing the disturbance agents than the post-disturbance response slope. Spectral changes associated with planned burning disturbances had generally lower magnitudes than selective harvesting. This study demonstrates the potential of landsat time series mapping for fire and timber harvesting disturbances at the agent level and highlights the need for distinguishing between agents to fully capture their impacts on ecosystem processes.