Possibilities and limitations of artificial neural networks for sub-pixel mapping of land cover

D. Nigussie, R. Zurita Milla, J.G.P.W. Clevers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Although developments in remote sensing have greatly improved land cover mapping, the mixed pixel problem has not yet been fully addressed. Soft classification techniques have been introduced to address the problem, but they do not show the spatial location of the class proportions in a pixel. Subpixel mapping has been introduced to address the drawbacks of soft classifications. In this work, the feedforward backpropagating neural network (FFBPNN) was used for subpixel mapping. A set of class proportion images, which are to be treated as soft classification results, were created from a high spatial resolution (25 m) land cover dataset. For this purpose, the land cover dataset was aggregated both thematically (into two, four or eight land cover classes) and spatially (into proportion images with pixel sizes of 75, 150 and 300 m). This resulted in nine different combinations that were considered here as study cases. Several FFBPNNs were trained using these proportion images and the original land cover dataset (which was used as a target). Subsequently, the best networks were used to reconstruct high spatial resolution land cover maps of two heterogeneous areas in the south of The Netherlands. The overall accuracies obtained revealed that the networks were influenced by the spatial frequency, shape and size of the different land cover types. Moreover, it was revealed that most of the errors were on the class boundaries where highly mixed pixels are to be expected. The accuracies spanned a wide range of values depending on the complexity of the cases. Although it was not possible to exhaustively explore all network architectures, the results demonstrate the potential of the FFBPNN for subpixel mapping.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7203-7226
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • remotely-sensed imagery
  • classification
  • resolution
  • meris
  • fusion


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