Object identification and characterization with hyperspectral imagery to identify structure and function of Natura 2000 habitats

C.A. Mücher, L. Kooistra, M. Vermeulen, B. Haest, T. Spanhove, S. Delalieux, J. Vanden Borre, A. Schmidt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperAcademic


Habitat monitoring of designated areas under the EU Habitats Directive requires every 6 years information on area, range, structure and function for the protected (Annex I) habitat types. First results from studies on heathland areas in Belgium and the Netherlands show that hyperspectral imagery can be an important source of information to assist the evaluation of the habitat conservation status. Hyperspectral imagery can provide continuous maps of habitat quality indicators (e.g., life forms or structure types, management activities, grass, shrub and tree encroachment) at the pixel level. At the same time, terrain managers, nature conservation agencies and national authorities responsible for the reporting to the EU are not directly interested in pixels, but rather in information at the level of vegetation patches, groups of patches or the protected site as a whole. Such local level information is needed for management purposes, e.g., exact location of patches of habitat types and the sizes and quality of these patches within a protected site. Site complexity determines not only the classification success of remote sensing imagery, but influences also the results of aggregation of information from the pixel to the site level. For all these reasons, it is important to identify and characterize the vegetation patches. This paper focuses on the use of segmentation techniques to identify relevant vegetation patches in combination with spectral mixture analysis of hyperspectral imagery from the Airborne Hyperspectral Scanner (AHS). Comparison with traditional vegetation maps shows that the habitat or vegetation patches can be identified by segmentation of hyperspectral imagery. This paper shows that spectral mixture analysis in combination with segmentation techniques on hyperspectral imagery can provide useful information on processes such as grass encroachment that determine the conservation status of Natura 2000 heathland areas to a large extent. A limitation is that both advanced remote sensing approaches and traditional field based vegetation surveys seem to cause over and underestimations of grass encroachment for specific categories, but the first provides a better basis for monitoring if specific species are not directly considered.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings Third GEOgraphic Object-Based Image Analysis Conference 2010, Ghent, Belgium, 29 June - 2 July 2010
Place of PublicationGhent, Belgium
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventThird GEOgraphic Object-Based Image Analysis Conference 2010, Ghent, Belgium -
Duration: 29 Jun 20102 Jul 2010


ConferenceThird GEOgraphic Object-Based Image Analysis Conference 2010, Ghent, Belgium


  • Conservation status
  • Grass encroachment
  • Heathland
  • Imaging spectroscopy
  • Object segmentation
  • Spectral mixture analysis


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