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Report No. 39

Vegetation Change Within the Wet Tropics of North Queensland: Mapping Changes with Landsat TM/ETM+ Imagery from 1988 and 1999

Research Report
Kasper Johansen and Stuart R. Phinn
ISBN 0 86443 751 X
Abstract (adapted for website)

Changes in the vegetation cover of the total Wet Tropics bioregion and particularly the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area of northern Queensland were mapped by comparing satellite image data from the Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper in 1988 and Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper sensors in 1999. These image data sets had been geometrically, radiometrically and atmospherically corrected in a previous Rainforest CRC project. Each image data set was used to produce maps of vegetation indices that represent the amount of vegetation cover within each image pixel.

The 1988 vegetation index image was subtracted from the 1999 vegetation index image, resulting in a difference image. Each pixel in the difference image represents the changes in the amount of vegetation cover present at the sampling times. The resulting map displays the vegetation cover changes over the 1988 to 1999 period, thereby identifying some areas with no significant change in vegetation cover and other areas that have experienced significant gain or loss of vegetation cover.

The results presented in this report demonstrate that a limited amount of clearing has occurred in the Wet Tropics since the World Heritage listing of the area in 1988, however the majority of changes observed were due to regeneration of vegetation. These changes could be further monitored in cooperation with the Queensland Government's Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) program or the MODIS SVI monitoring project established by researchers of the Rainforest CRC's Project 1.2.

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