Reconstructing land use history from Landsat time-series: Case study of Swidden Agriculture Intensification in Brazil

L.P. Dutrieux, A.C. Jakovac, L. Siti, L. Kooistra

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


We developed a method to reconstruct land use history from Landsat images time-series. The method uses a breakpoint detection framework derived from the econometrics field and applicable to time-series regression models. The BFAST framework is used for defining the time-series regression models which may contain trend and phenology, hence appropriately modelling vegetation intra and inter-annual dynamics. All available Landsat data are used, and the time-series are partitioned into segments delimited by breakpoints. Segments can be associated to land use regimes, while the breakpoints then correspond to shifts in regimes. To further characterize these shifts, we classified the unlabelled breakpoints returned by the algorithm into their corresponding processes. We used a Random Forest classifier, trained from a set of visually interpreted time-series profiles to infer the processes and assign labels to the breakpoints. The whole approach was applied to quantifying the number of cultivation cycles in a swidden agriculture system in Brazil. Number and frequency of cultivation cycles is of particular ecological relevance in these systems since they largely affect the capacity of the forest to regenerate after abandonment. We applied the method to a Landsat time-series of Normalized Difference Moisture Index (NDMI) spanning the 1984-2015 period and derived from it the number of cultivation cycles during that period at the individual field scale level. Agricultural fields boundaries used to apply the method were derived using a multi-temporal segmentation. We validated the number of cultivation cycles predicted against in-situ information collected from farmers interviews, resulting in a Normalized RMSE of 0.25. Overall the method performed well, producing maps with coherent patterns. We identified various sources of error in the approach, including low data availability in the 90s and sub-object mixture of land uses. We conclude that the method holds great promise for land use history mapping in the tropics and beyond. Spatial and temporal patterns were further analysed with an ecological perspective in a follow-up study. Results show that changes in land use patterns such as land use intensification and reduced agricultural expansion reflect the socio-economic transformations that occurred in the region
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventAGU fall meeting, San-Francisco, 14-18 December, 2015, San Francisco, USA. - San Francisco, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Dec 201518 Dec 2015


ConferenceAGU fall meeting, San-Francisco, 14-18 December, 2015, San Francisco, USA.
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CitySan Francisco


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