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Journal Article

Time series analysis for global land cover change monitoring: A comparison across sensors


Xu,  Lili
External Organizations;


Herold,  Martin
1.4 Remote Sensing, 1.0 Geodesy, Departments, GFZ Publication Database, Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum;

Tsendbazar,  Nandin-Erdene
External Organizations;

Masiliūnas,  Dainius
External Organizations;

Li,  Linlin
External Organizations;

Lesiv,  Myroslava
External Organizations;

Fritz,  Steffen
External Organizations;

Verbesselt,  Jan
External Organizations;

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Xu, L., Herold, M., Tsendbazar, N.-E., Masiliūnas, D., Li, L., Lesiv, M., Fritz, S., Verbesselt, J. (2022): Time series analysis for global land cover change monitoring: A comparison across sensors. - Remote Sensing of Environment, 271, 112905.

Cite as: https://gfzpublic.gfz-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_5009309
Comparing the performance of different satellite sensors in global land cover change (LCC) monitoring is necessary to assess their potential and limitations for more accurate and operational LCC estimations. This paper aims to examine and compare the performance in LCC monitoring using three satellite sensors: PROBA-V, Landsat 8 OLI, and Sentinel-2 MSI. We utilized a unique set of global reference data containing four years of records (2015–2018) at 29,263 land cover change/no-change 100 × 100-m sites. The LCC monitoring was conducted using the BFAST(s)-Random Forest (BRF) change detection framework involving 15 global timeseries vegetation indices and three BFAST models. Due to the different spectral characteristics and data availability of the sensors, we designed 30 comparison scenarios to extensively evaluate their performance. The overall results were: 1) for global general LCC monitoring, Landsat 8 OLI slightly outperformed Sentinel-2, and PROBA-V performed the worst. The performance among the three sensors differed consistently despite different data availability and spectral observation regions. Sentinel-2 was more competitive with Landsat 8 when the red-edge 1 band was included; 2) Landsat 8 was more accurate in forest, herbaceous vegetation, and water monitoring. Sentinel-2 performed particularly well in wetland monitoring. In addition, we further observed: 3) missing data in time series decreased the accuracy in all sensors, but had little influence on the relative performance across sensors; 4) combining sensors would not necessarily improve the accuracy because the complementary effects enhanced the accuracy only when there was a large amount of data missing for all sensors; 5) the BRF framework maintained the performance gap among sensors, but obtained a higher and more balanced accuracy overall when compared with using BFAST methods alone, by involving ensemble learning with an embedded sample-balancing strategy; 6) among the random forest variables, the ‘magnitude’ proved to be the most important contributor, and the NDVI had the most consistently good performance across sensors when compared against other vegetation indices. All sensors using BRF still had some errors in change detection, with a tendency to underestimate the global LCC. A potential reason for this is the complexity of the diverse change/no-change characteristics at the global extent and the fact that smaller, more subtle LCCs might not be well detected. These limitations could be addressed by taking advantage of ensemble learning approaches with a combination of multiple independent region/thematic-adapted LCC monitoring models and using the original Sentinel-2 (10 m) and Landsat 8 (30 m) in the future.