The applications of object-based image analysis (OBIA) in remote sensing studies of wetlands have been growing over recent decades, addressing tasks from detection and delineation of wetland bodies to comprehensive analyses of within-wetland cover types and their change. Compared to pixel-based approaches, OBIA offers several important benefits to wetland analyses related to smoothing of the local noise, incorporating meaningful non-spectral features for class separation and accounting for landscape hierarchy of wetland ecosystem organization and structure. However, there has been little discussion on whether unique challenges of wetland environments can be uniformly addressed by OBIA across different types of data, spatial scales and research objectives, and to what extent technical and conceptual aspects of this framework may themselves present challenges in a complex wetland setting. This review presents a synthesis of 73 studies that applied OBIA to different types of remote sensing data, spatial scale and research objectives. It summarizes the progress and scope of OBIA uses in wetlands, key benefits of this approach, factors related to accuracy and uncertainty in its applications and the main research needs and directions to expand the OBIA capacity in the future wetland studies. Growing demands for higher-accuracy wetland characterization at both regional and local scales together with advances in very high resolution remote sensing and novel tasks in wetland restoration monitoring will likely continue active exploration of the OBIA potential in these diverse and complex environments.
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