Mapping Clearances in Tropical Dry Forests Using Breakpoints, Trend, and Seasonal Components from MODIS Time Series: Does Forest Type Matter?

Kenneth Grogan*, Dirk Pflugmacher, Patrick Hostert, Jan Verbesselt, Rasmus Fensholt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Tropical environments present a unique challenge for optical time series analysis, primarily owing to fragmented data availability, persistent cloud cover and atmospheric aerosols. Additionally, little is known of whether the performance of time series change detection is affected by diverse forest types found in tropical dry regions. In this paper, we develop a methodology for mapping forest clearing in Southeast Asia using a study region characterised by heterogeneous forest types. Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) time series are decomposed using Breaks For Additive Season and Trend (BFAST) and breakpoints, trend, and seasonal components are combined in a binomial probability model to distinguish between cleared and stable forest. We found that the addition of seasonality and trend information improves the change model performance compared to using breakpoints alone. We also demonstrate the value of considering forest type in disturbance mapping in comparison to the more common approach that combines all forest types
into a single generalised forest class. By taking a generalised forest approach, there is less control over the error distribution in each forest type. Dry-deciduous and evergreen forests are especially sensitive to error imbalances using a generalised forest model i.e., clearances were underestimated in evergreen forest, and overestimated in dry-deciduous forest. This suggests that forest type needs to be considered in time series change mapping, especially in heterogeneous forest regions. Our approach builds towards improving large-area monitoring of forest-diverse regions such as Southeast Asia. The findings of this study should also be transferable across optical sensors and are therefore relevant for the future availability of dense time series for the tropics at higher
spatial resolutions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number657
Number of pages27
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Accuracy
  • Change detection
  • Deforestation
  • Dry deciduous
  • Evergreen
  • Southeast Asia


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