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Remote Sens. 2016, 8(1), 44; doi:10.3390/rs8010044

Extent and Area of Swidden in Montane Mainland Southeast Asia: Estimation by Multi-Step Thresholds with Landsat-8 OLI Data

Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
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Academic Editors: Xiangming Xiao, Jinwei Dong, Clement Atzberger and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Received: 5 November 2015 / Revised: 16 December 2015 / Accepted: 16 December 2015 / Published: 7 January 2016
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Abstract

Information on the distribution, area and extent of swidden agriculture landscape is necessary for implementing the program of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), biodiversity conservation and local livelihood improvement. To our knowledge, explicit spatial maps and accurate area data on swidden agriculture remain surprisingly lacking. However, this traditional farming practice has been transforming into other profit-driven land use, like tree plantations and permanent cash agriculture. Swidden agriculture is characterized by a rotational and dynamic nature of agroforestry, with land cover changing from natural forests, newly-cleared swiddens to different-aged fallows. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) onboard the Landsat-8 satellite has visible, near-infrared and shortwave infrared bands, which are sensitive to the changes in vegetation cover, land surface moisture content and soil exposure, and therefore, four vegetation indices (VIs) were calculated, including the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), the Normalized Difference Moisture Index (NDMI), the Normalized Burn Ratio (NBR) and the Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index (SAVI). In this study, we developed a multi-step threshold approach that uses a combination of thresholds of four VIs and local elevation range (LER) and applied it to detect and map newly-opened swiddens and different-aged fallows using OLI imagery acquired between 2013 and 2015. The resultant Landsat-derived swidden agriculture maps have high accuracy with an overall accuracy of 86.9% and a Kappa coefficient of 0.864. The results of this study indicated that the Landsat-based multi-step threshold algorithms could potentially be applied to monitor the long-term change pattern of swidden agriculture in montane mainland Southeast Asia since the late 1980s and also in other tropical regions, like insular Southeast Asia, South Asia, Latin America and Central Africa, where swidden agriculture is still common. View Full-Text
Keywords: swidden agriculture; fallow; vegetation indices; multi-step threshold; Landsat; montane mainland Southeast Asia swidden agriculture; fallow; vegetation indices; multi-step threshold; Landsat; montane mainland Southeast Asia
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Li, P.; Feng, Z. Extent and Area of Swidden in Montane Mainland Southeast Asia: Estimation by Multi-Step Thresholds with Landsat-8 OLI Data. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 44.

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