Assessing Harvested Sites in a Forested Boreal Mountain Catchment through Global Forest Watch
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionRemote Sensing. 2019, 11 (5), 1-19. 10.3390/rs11050543
Global Forest Watch (GFW) provides a global map of annual forest cover loss (FCL) produced from Landsat imagery, offering a potentially powerful tool for monitoring changes in forest cover. In managed forests, FCL primarily provides information on commercial harvesting. A semi-autonomous method for providing data on the location and attributes of harvested sites at a landscape level was developed which could significantly improve the basis for catchment management, including risk mitigation. FCL in combination with aerial images was used for detecting and characterising harvested sites in a 1607 km2 mountainous boreal forest catchment in south-central Norway. Firstly, the forest cover loss map was enhanced (FCLE) by removing small isolated forest cover loss patches that had a high probability of representing commission errors. The FCLE map was then used to locate and assess sites representing annual harvesting activity over a 17-year period. Despite an overall accuracy of >98%, a kappa of 0.66 suggested only a moderate quality for detecting harvested sites. While errors of commission were negligible, errors of omission were more considerable and at least partially attributed to the presence of residual seed trees on the site after harvesting. The systematic analysis of harvested sites against aerial images showed a detection rate of 94%, but the area of the individual harvested site was underestimated by 29% on average. None of the site attributes tested, including slope, area, altitude, or site shape index, had any effect on the accuracy of the area estimate. The annual harvest estimate was 0.6% (standard error 12%) of the productive forest area. On average, 96% of the harvest was carried out on flat to moderately steep terrain (<40% slope), 3% on steep terrain (40% to 60% slope), and 1% on very steep terrain (>60% slope). The mean area of FCLE within each slope category was 1.7 ha, 0.9 ha, and 0.5 ha, respectively. The mean FCLE area increased from 1.0 ha to 3.2 ha on flat to moderate terrain over the studied period, while the frequency of harvesting increased from 249 to 495 sites per year. On the steep terrain, 35% of the harvesting was done with cable yarding, and 62% with harvester-forwarder systems. On the very steep terrain (>60% slope), 88% of the area was harvested using cable yarding technology while harvesters and forwarders were used on 12% of the area. Overall, FCL proved to be a useful dataset for the purpose of assessing harvesting activity under the given conditions.