Assessing Worldview-3 multispectral imaging abilities to map the tree diversity in semi-arid parklands
Semi-arid parkland agrosystems are strongly sensitive to climate change and anthropic pressure. In the context of sustainability research, trees are considered critical for various ecosystem services covering environment quality as well as food security and health. But their actual ecological impact on both cropland and natural vegetation is not well understood yet, and collecting spatial and structural information around agroforestry systems is becoming an important issue. Tree mapping in semi-arid parklands could be one of these prerequisites. While for obtaining an exhaustive inventory of individual trees and for analysing their spatial distribution, remote sensing is the ideal tool. However, it has been noted that depending on the spatial resolution and sensor spectral characteristics, tree species cannot be distinguished clearly, even in the sparsely vegetated semi-arid ecosystems of West Africa. Thus, this work focuses on assessing the capabilities of Worldview-3 imagery, acquired in 8 spectral bands, to detect, delineate, and identify certain key tree species in the Faidherbia albida parkland in Bambey, Senegal, based on a ground-truth database corresponding to 5000 trees. The tree crowns are delineated through NDVI thresholding and consecutive filtering to provide object-based radiometric signatures, radiometric indices, and textural information. A factorial discriminant analysis is then performed, which indicates that only four out of the seven most abundant species in the study area can be discriminated: “Faidherbia albida”,” Azadirachta indica”, “Balanites aegyptiaca” and “Tamarindus indica”. Next, random forest and support vector machine classifiers are employed to identify the optimal combination of classifier parameters to discriminate these classes with a high accuracy, robustness, and stability. The linear support vector machine with cost=1 and gamma=0.01 provides the optimal results with a global accuracy of 88 % and kappa of 0.71. This classifier is applied to the whole study area to map all the trees with crowns larger than 2 m, sorted in four identified species and a fifth common group of unidentified species. This map thus enables analysing the variability in tree density and the spatial distribution of different species. Such information can afterwards be correlated to the ecological functioning of the parkland and local practices, and offers promising opportunities to help future sustainability initiatives in different socio-ecological contexts.