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Automatic Mapping of Linear Woody Vegetation Features in Agricultural Landscapes Using Very High-Resolution Imagery

Automatic mapping and monitoring of agricultural landscapes using remotely sensed imagery has been an important research problem. This paper describes our work on developing automatic methods for the detection of target landscape features in very high-resolution images. The target objects of interest consist of linear strips of woody vegetation that include hedgerows and riparian vegetation that are important elements of the landscape ecology and biodiversity. The proposed framework exploits the spectral, textural, and shape properties of objects using hierarchical feature extraction and decision making steps. First, a multi-feature and multi-scale strategy is used to be able to cover different characteristics of these objects in a wide range of landscapes. Discriminant functions trained on combinations of spectral and textural features are used to select the pixels that may belong to candidate objects. Then, a shape analysis step employs morphological top-hat transforms to locate the woody vegetation areas that fall within the width limits of an acceptable object, and a skeletonization and iterative least-squares procedure quantifies the linearity of the objects using the uniformity of the estimated radii along the skeleton points. Extensive experiments using QuickBird imagery from three European Union member states show that the proposed algorithms provide good localization of the target objects in a wide range of landscapes with very different characteristics.