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Landsat Data Valuable in the Assessment of Forest Change in Canada

The Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada, along with the University of British Columbia and support from the Canadian Space Agency, has been developing the science and methods to track and characterize the history of Canada’s forests.



Led by Landsat Science Team Member Michael Wulder (Canadian Forest Service), the Satellite Forest Monitoring in Canada interface displays points representing locations where forest change has been observed between 1985 and 2011. Landsat data is used to detect these changes, identify the year in which the changes occurred, and estimate a change type (such as harvest or wildfire).

A change detection approach was applied to annual time series data, enabling the detection of abrupt (e.g. fire) and gradual (e.g. drought) changes. From the time series, the recovery of forests after disturbances by wildfire and harvest can also be assessed. The identification of these historical changes is beneficial in trend model developments that allow scientists to anticipate and prepare for future changes of the forested areas.

Screenshot of the Satellite Forest Monitoring in Canada interface
This screenshot of the Satellite Forest Monitoring in Canada interface shows an area in Central Alberta, and displays the colored points (pixels) of selected changes to the land surface. The scale showing the years changes as users zoom into areas of interest.