Using satellite remote sensing to monitor and assess ecosystem integrity and climate change in Canada’s National Parks
R. Fraser, I. Olthof, D. Pouliot, W. Chen, S. Wang, and A. Clouston, Natural Resources Canada, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing
J. Poitevin, D. McLennan, P. Zorn, and J. Quirouette, Parks Canada, National Parks Directorate,
J. Kerr and E. Young, University of Ottawa, Department of Biology,
M. Sawada and Z. Relijic, University of Ottawa, Department of Geography
Canada's national parks system includes 42 parks – covering 3 percent (296,253 km2) of the country's landmass and representing the full diversity of its natural regions. Considering the vast and often remote areas under protection, Parks Canada Agency (PCA) envisions Earth observation (EO) technology to be an integral component of a national Ecological Integrity Monitoring and Reporting Program. Natural Resources Canada, PCA, and the University of Ottawa have been developing standardized EO-based methods for monitoring landscape and ecological change within and surrounding Canada's forested national parks. This work was supported by the Canadian Space Agency under the Government Related Initiatives Program (GRIP).
Land cover and land use change is often the major factor impacting the ecological integrity (EI) of terrestrial ecosystems. While changes occurring within national parks are generally smaller than those in the greater park ecosystems (GPE), both have strong effect on the species and processes that maintain EI. Land cover provides a key input to quantifying habitat fragmentation and its influence on an ecosystem, and is an important variable for modelling plant productivity and biodiversity.
NRCan scientists have developed a protocol called AMUSE (Automated Multi-temporal Updating by Signature Extension) that automates land cover change detection as much as possible while still employing expert analyst guidance and quality control. The procedure was developed using Landsat TM and ETM+ data and consists of seven major steps:
- Radiometrically normalize baseline (Master) imagery to 1-km imagery.
- Produce Master baseline land cover classification
- Remove haze and topographic effects
- Radiometrically normalize other dates to Master
- Identify changed pixels using Change Vector Analysis (CVA)
- Update land cover using constrained signature extension
- Validate baseline land cover and changes
Six national parks (Kejimkujik, La Mauricie, St. Lawrence Islands, Prince Albert, Nahanni, and Pacific Rim), representing a range of forested Bioregions across the Parks Canada system, served as pilot sites to develop, test, and demonstrate the change mapping methods. The resulting time series of land cover data can serve as a primary input for deriving various landscape-level EI indicators related to habitat fragmentation, succession and retrogression, net primary productivity (NPP), and focal species distributions. The methods developed in this collaborative project will be applied by PCA to provide information for future State of the Parks Reports, beginning with Pacific Rim National Park in 2008.
A joint PCA-CCRS follow-on project is now underway with funding from the Canadian Space Agency to develop satellite-based EI monitoring methods for Arctic and sub-Arctic parks. This ParkSPACE initiative will have a particular focus on detecting and quantifying the impacts of climate change on vegetation, permafrost, and wetlands.
For more information see:
R.H. Fraser, I. Olthof, and D. Pouliot, 2009. Monitoring land cover change and ecological integrity in Canada's national parks. Remote Sensing of Environment 113:1397-1409.
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