Monitoring rubber plantation expansion using Landsat data time series and a Shapelet-based approach

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The expansion of tree plantations in tropical forests for commercial rubber cultivation threatens biodiversity which may affect ecosystem services, and hinders ecosystem productivity, causing net carbon emission. Numerous studies refer to the challenge of reliably distinguishing rubber plantations from natural forest, using satellite data, due to their similar spectral signatures, even when phenology is incorporated into an analysis. This study presents a novel approach for monitoring the establishment and expansion of rubber plantations in Seima Protection Forest (SPF), Cambodia (1995–2015), by detecting and analyzing the ‘shapelet’ structure in a Landsat-NDVI time series. This paper introduces a new classification procedure consisting of two steps: (1) an exhaustive-searching algorithm to detect shapelets that represent a period for relatively low NDVI values within an image time series; and (2) a t-test used to determine if NDVI values of detected shapelets are significantly different than their non-shapelet trend, thereby indicating the presence of rubber plantations. Using this approach, historical rubber plantation events were mapped over the twenty-year timespan. The shapelet algorithm produced two types of information: (1) year of rubber plantation establishment; and (2) pre-conversion land-cover type (i.e., agriculture, or natural forest). The overall accuracy of the rubber plantation map for the year of 2015 was 89%. The multi-temporal map products reveal that more than half of the rubber planting activity (57%) took place in 2010 and 2011, following the granting of numerous rubber concessions two years prior. Seventy-three percent of the rubber plantations were converted from natural forest and twenty-three percent were established on non-forest land-cover. The shapelet approach developed here can be used reliably to improve our understanding of the expansion of rubber production beyond Seima Protection Forest of Cambodia, and likely elsewhere in the tropics.

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ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing

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