Support vector machines for recognition of semi-arid vegetation types using MISR multi-angle imagery

Lihong Su, Mark J. Chopping, Albert Rango, John V. Martonchik, Debra P.C. Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Accurately mapping community types is one of the main challenges for monitoring arid and semi-arid grasslands with remote sensing. The multi-angle approach has been proven useful for mapping vegetation types in desert grassland. The Multi-angle Imaging Spectro-Radiometer (MISR) provides 4 spectral bands and 9 angular reflectance. In this study, 44 classification experiments have been implemented to find the optimal combination of MISR multi-angular data to mine the information carried by MISR data as effectively as possible. These experiments show the following findings: 1) The combination of MISR's 4 spectral bands at nadir and red and near infrared bands in the C, B, and A cameras observing off-nadir can obtain the best vegetation type differentiation at the community level in New Mexico desert grasslands. 2) The k parameter at red band of Modified-Rahman-Pinty-Verstraete (MRPV) model and the structural scattering index (SSI) can bring useful additional information to land cover classification. The information carried by these two parameters, however, is less than that carried by surface anisotropy patterns described by the MRPV model and a linear semi-empirical kernel-driven bidirectional reflectance distribution function model, the RossThin-LiSparseMODIS (RTnLS) model. These experiments prove that: 1) multi-angular reflectance raise overall classification accuracy from 45.8% for nadir-only reflectance to 60.9%. 2) With surface anisotropy patterns derived from MRPV and RTnLS, an overall accuracy of 68.1% can be obtained when maximum likelihood algorithms are used. 3) Support Vector Machine (SVM) algorithms can raise the classification accuracy to 76.7%. This research shows that multi-angular reflectance, surface anisotropy patterns and SVM algorithms can improve desert vegetation type differentiation importantly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-311
Number of pages13
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2007


  • Classification
  • MISR
  • Multi-angle observations
  • Semi-arid vegetation
  • Support vector machine


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