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Caribbean Land Cover Analyses

Objectives

We propose to develop the essential foundation of a Caribbean regional planning framework by creating the baseline vegetation and land-cover map and data layer, using satellite imagery and ancillary data. NASA has agreed to donate all the satellite imagery necessary for the project. We will acquire and classify the most recent, highest quality, Landsat TM images for the entire Caribbean region. We will then develop land use and natural vegetation maps using a hybrid image analysis approach, based on conclusions from the initial pilot project, funded by USAID.

Field surveys will identify areas representative of each vegetation type over its entire range. We will locate these areas in Landsat satellite imagery and use field data to classify imagery into vegetation types. We will choose a minimum of 50 to 100 unmixed pixels for each vegetation type over its range. We will then extract the spectral signatures of these pixels from the imagery as well as their elevation, geology, etc., from digital versions of these maps. A machine learning (decision tree) algorithm will use these training data to develop supervised classification models that, when applied to the assortment of digital satellite imagery and ancillary data maps, will produce land use/vegetation maps. We will then delineate confused classes—such as certain agricultural types and sparsely distributed vegetation types—using manual interpretation. Subsequently, a reserved portion of the training data set will supply data for accuracy assessment. Finally, we will solicit and incorporate suggested edits by local contacts.

The region will be geographically divided into the Lesser Antilles, the Greater Antilles and Bahamas, and Cuba. An institutional lead from one of the three collaborating institutions will coordinate efforts for each island. The lead organization will be primarily responsible for the completion of all processing, training, fieldwork, post-fieldwork analysis, and deliverables for their islands, but all three organizations will be involved in different functions on every island. A coordinator will be hired to facilitate seamless reporting and financial coordination, and a coordination team will form with a representative from each institution.

Capacity building will occur by involving staff from local natural resource agencies in field surveys. Each field team will consist of one expert in image analysis, one expert in FGDC classification and Caribbean vegetation types, one local forester or vegetation expert, and one driver. By including a local contact in field surveys, a representative from each country will become familiar with GPS technology, the process of interpretation and map development from satellite imagery, and collecting field data for future mapping efforts.


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