Wetlands are one of the most important ecosystems that provide a desirable habitat for a great variety of flora and fauna. Wetland mapping and modeling using Earth Observation (EO) data are essential for natural resource management at both regional and national levels. However, accurate wetland mapping is challenging, especially on a large scale, given their heterogeneous and fragmented landscape, as well as the spectral similarity of differing wetland classes. Currently, precise, consistent, and comprehensive wetland inventories on a national- or provincial-scale are lacking globally, with most studies focused on the generation of local-scale maps from limited remote sensing data. Leveraging the Google Earth Engine (GEE) computational power and the availability of high spatial resolution remote sensing data collected by Copernicus Sentinels, this study introduces the first detailed, provincial-scale wetland inventory map of one of the richest Canadian provinces in terms of wetland extent. In particular, multi-year summer Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Sentinel-1 and optical Sentinel-2 data composites were used to identify the spatial distribution of five wetland and three non-wetland classes on the Island of Newfoundland, covering an approximate area of 106,000 km2
. The classification results were evaluated using both pixel-based and object-based random forest (RF) classifications implemented on the GEE platform. The results revealed the superiority of the object-based approach relative to the pixel-based classification for wetland mapping. Although the classification using multi-year optical data was more accurate compared to that of SAR, the inclusion of both types of data significantly improved the classification accuracies of wetland classes. In particular, an overall accuracy of 88.37% and a Kappa coefficient of 0.85 were achieved with the multi-year summer SAR/optical composite using an object-based RF classification, wherein all wetland and non-wetland classes were correctly identified with accuracies beyond 70% and 90%, respectively. The results suggest a paradigm-shift from standard static products and approaches toward generating more dynamic, on-demand, large-scale wetland coverage maps through advanced cloud computing resources that simplify access to and processing of the “Geo Big Data.” In addition, the resulting ever-demanding inventory map of Newfoundland is of great interest to and can be used by many stakeholders, including federal and provincial governments, municipalities, NGOs, and environmental consultants to name a few.
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