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Mapping Forest Composition with Landsat Time Series: An Evaluation of Seasonal Composites and Harmonic Regression

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Remote Sensing


The Landsat program has long supported pioneering research on the recovery of forest information by remote sensing technologies for several decades, and efforts to improve the thematic resolution and accuracy of forest compositional products remains an area of continued innovation. Recent development and application of Landsat time series analysis offers unique opportunities for quantifying seasonality and trend components among different forest types for developing alternative feature sets for forest vegetation mapping. Within a large forested landscape in Southeastern Ohio, USA, we examined the use of harmonic metrics developed from time series of all available Landsat-8 observations (2013–2019) relative to seasonal image composites, including accompanying spectral components and vegetation indices. A reference dataset among three sources was integrated and used to categorize forest inventory data into seven forest type classes and gradient compositional response. Results showed that the combination of harmonic metrics and topographic variables achieved an accuracy agreement with the reference data of 74.9% relative to seasonal composites (71.6%) and spectral indices (70.3%). Differences in agreement were attributed to improved discrimination of three heterogeneous upland hardwood classes and an early-successional, young forest class, all forest types of primary interest among managers across the region. Variable importance metrics often identified the cosine and sine terms that quantify the seasonality in spectral values in the harmonic feature space, suggesting these aspects best support the characterization of forest types at greater thematic detail than seasonal compositing procedures. This study demonstrates how advanced time series metrics can improve forest type modeling and forest gradient quantifications, thus showcasing a need for continued exploration of such approaches across different forest types.


Landsat; time series; harmonic regression; forest compositional modeling; seasonal composites


Adams, Bryce; Iverson, Louis; Matthews, Stephen; Peters, Matthew; Prasad, Anantha; Hix, David M. 2020. Mapping Forest Composition with Landsat Time Series: An Evaluation of Seasonal Composites and Harmonic Regression. Remote Sensing. 12(4): 610. 26 p.

Last updated on: August 20, 2020