Remotely sensed imagery is an attractive source of information for mapping and monitoring land cover. Fine spatial resolution imagery is typically acquired infrequently, but fine temporal resolution systems commonly provide coarse spatial resolution imagery. Sub-pixel land cover change mapping is a method that aims to use the advantages of these multiple spatial and temporal resolution sensing systems. This method produces fine spatial and temporal resolution land cover maps, by updating fine spatial resolution land cover maps using coarse spatial resolution remote sensing imagery. A critical issue for sub-pixel land cover change mapping is downscaling coarse spatial resolution fraction maps estimated by soft classification to a fine spatial resolution land cover map. The relationship between a historic fine spatial resolution map and a contemporary fine spatial resolution map to be estimated at a more recent date plays an important role in the downscaling procedure. A change strategy based on the assumption that the change for each land cover class in a coarse spatial resolution pixel is unidirectional was shown to be a promising means to describe this relationship. This paper aims to assess this change strategy by analyzing the factors that affect the accuracy of the change strategy, using six subsets of the National Land Cover Database (NLCD) of USA. The results show that the spatial resolution of coarse pixels, the time interval of the previous fine resolution land cover map and the current coarse spatial resolution images, and the thematic resolution of the used land cover class scheme have considerable influence on the accuracy of the change strategy. The accuracy of the change strategy decreases with the coarsening of spatial resolution, an increase of time interval, and an increase of thematic resolution. The results also indicate that, when the historic land cover map has a 30 m resolution, like the NLCD, the average accuracy of the change strategy is still as high as 92% when the coarse spatial resolution data used had a resolution of ~1000 m, confirming the effectiveness of the change strategy used in sub-pixel land cover change mapping for use with popular remote sensing systems.
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