China’s Sponge City initiative will involve widespread installation of new stormwater infrastructure including green roofs, permeable pavements and rain gardens in at least 30 cities. Hydrologic modelling can support the planning of Sponge Cities at the catchment scale, however, highly detailed spatial data for model input can be challenging to compile from the various authorities, or, if available, may not be sufficiently detailed or updated. Remote sensing methods show great promise for mitigating this challenge due to their ability to efficiently classify satellite images into categories relevant to a specific application. In this study Geographic Object Based Image Analysis (GEOBIA) was applied to WorldView-3 satellite imagery (2017) to create a detailed land cover map of an urban catchment area in Beijing. While land cover classification results based on a Bayesian machine learning classifier alone provided an overall land cover classification accuracy of 63%, the subsequent inclusion of a series of refining rules in combination with supplementary data (including elevation and parcel delineations), yielded the significantly improved overall accuracy of 76%. Results of the land cover classification highlight the limitations of automated classification based on satellite imagery alone and the value of supplementary data and additional rules to refine classification results. Catchment scale hydrologic modelling based on the generated land cover results indicated that 61 to 82% of rainfall volume could be captured for a range of 24 h design storms under varying degrees of Sponge City implementation.
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