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Western Washington Land Use Change
1988 > 1996 > 2004

About the Project | Discussion Points | Contact Information

About the Project

In 2004, the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Inventory Analysis (FIA) program contracted with the Rural Technology Initiative (RTI), a research and outreach center at the University of Washington’s College of Forest Resources, to investigate the potential of using satellite images as a more cost-effective and repeatable process to determine and calculate land use and its associated change.

The project goals included:

  • Calculate and display land use change on non-federal lands in Western Washington, using time- and cost-efficient remote sensing and GIS technologies, keeping in mind the following:
  • Develop methods that can be easily replicated for other areas of the Pacific Northwest; and, attempt to exceed the accuracy and efficiency of conducting a similar study based on aerial photo interpretation.

This project focused on non-federal lands, since it was assumed that land use change on federal lands has stayed constant over time, whether or not land cover has changed (for a detailed discussion of land use versus land cover, click here).

The methodology, analysis, and data were completed in September 2006 and were provided back to the FIA program staff, who are currently comparing the data against other sources. Earlier in 2006, we attempted to replicate the methodology for Eastern Washington, but were confronted with a large obstacle to make the methods appropriate for the very different landscape east of the Cascades. This follow-up to the project has been put on hold until additional time and funding allow for more in-depth analysis.

This website will provide interested people and organizations with a summary of our methodology and analysis, as well as a few summary tables and links to the actual digital data. We are currently working with the FIA program and the PNW Research Station to pursue a continuation of land use change analysis in Washington. We encourage you to read through the background and methodology sections before viewing the summary tables and/or using the digital data.


Key Discussion Points

Using Landsat images for land use analysis

Although Landsat images were chosen for this analysis, there are alternative sources of data that may improve future classifications and land use analysis. The difficulty of registering and classifying such a large quantity of images posed problems with data storage, transfer, and repeatability. Future research could focus on using alternative source data and compare to the results using Landsat images.

Using eCognition and object-based classification methods

Object-based classification proved to be a successful method for determining land use (as compared to land cover). eCognition's segmentation capabilities were a key factor in the object-based classification; however, the program was unpredictable and alternative classification software could yield more reliable results.

Additional uses for this data

This data was produced to supplement current FIA efforts of monitoring and tracking forest land resources in the Pacific Northwest. It was a first attempt to use satellite images and remote sensing, rather than aerial photo interpretation, as the primary data source and method of analysis. The authors are aware of the limitations of the data and hope that future work will build off of this first-level foundation.

Future work

Some of the goals of this project were to identify a way to more quickly classify land use and classify land use more consistently. Previous photo interpretation techniques and methodologies have been well defined but different analysts have produced different results. Image classification is subject to that same subjective bias when analysts collect samples for a supervised classification. For this Landsat analysis classification training datasets were produced for each image. While this significantly reduced the amount of time and effort necessary to classify the images (since spectral properties did not need to be normalized across time and space) it did introduce analyst bias into the results. Future classifications could use the same spatial locations for training data across multiple datasets. Overlapping areas of imagery and areas that have not changed from year to year would be better locations to take training samples than the unstructured method used for this project.

Contact Information

Western Washington Land Use Change 1988, 1996, 2004 methods, data products and report were authored by:

Ara Erickson
Forestry Research Consultant
Rural Technology Initiative, College of Forest Resources
University of Washington
355 Bloedel Hall
UW Box 352100
Seattle, WA 98195-2100
(206) 543-7418
Luke Rogers
Research Scientist/Engineer
Rural Technology Initiative, College of Forest Resources
University of Washington
355 Bloedel Hall
UW Box 352100
Seattle, WA 98195-2100
(206) 543-7418

with much support from Justina Harris, Phil Hurvitz, and Hiroo Imaki!

School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
USDA Forest Service State & Private Forestry
WSU Cooperative Extension
The Rural Technology Home Page is provided by the College of Forest Resources. For more information, please contact the Rural Technology Initiative, University of Washington Box 352100 Seattle, WA 98195, (206) 543-0827. © 2000-2004, University of Washington, Rural Technology Initiative, including all photographs and images unless otherwise noted. To view the privacy policy, click here.
Last Updated 10/13/2022 11:34:21 AM