Woody cover encroachment/expansion/conversion is a complex phenomenon that has environmental and economic impacts around the world. This research demonstrates the development of highly accurate models for estimating percent woody cover using high spatial resolution image data in combination with multi-seasonal Landsat reflectance products. We use a classification and regression tree (CART) approach to classify woody cover using fine resolution multispectral National Agricultural Imaging Program (NAIP) data. A continuous classification and regression tree (Cubist) ingests the aggregated woody cover classification along with the seasonal Landsat data to create a continuous woody cover model. We applied the models, derived by Cubist, across several Landsat scenes to estimate the percentage of woody plant cover, within each Landsat pixel, over a larger regional extent. We measured an average absolute error of 12.1 percent and a correlation coefficient of 0.78 for the models performed. The method of modelling percent woody cover established in this manuscript outperforms currently available woody cover estimates including Landsat Vegetation Continuous Fields (VCF), on average by 26 percent, and Web-Enabled Landsat Data (WELD) products, on average by 16 percent, for the region of interest. Current woody cover products are also limited to certain years and not available pre-2000. This manuscript describes a novel Cubist-based technique to model woody cover for any area of the world, as long as fine (~1–2 m) spatial resolution and Landsat data are available.
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