Friedl MA, Woodcock CE, Olofsson P, Zhu Z, Loveland T, Stanimirova R, Arevalo P, Bullock E, Hu K-T, Zhang Y, Turlej K, Tarrio K, McAvoy K, Gorelick N, Wang JA, Barber CP and Souza C (2022) Medium Spatial Resolution Mapping of Global Land Cover and Land Cover Change Across Multiple Decades From Landsat. Front. Remote Sens. 3:894571. doi: 10.3389/frsen.2022.894571
Abstract: Land cover maps are essential for characterizing the biophysical properties of the Earth’s land areas. Because land cover information synthesizes a rich array of information related to both the ecological condition of land areas and their exploitation by humans, they are widely used for basic and applied research that requires information related to land surface properties (e.g., terrestrial carbon models, water balance models, weather, and climate models) and are core inputs to models and analyses used by natural resource scientists and land managers. As the Earth’s global population has grown over the last several decades rates of land cover change have increased dramatically, with enormous impacts on ecosystem services (e.g., biodiversity, water supply, carbon sequestration, etc.). Hence, accurate information related to land cover is essential for both managing natural resources and for understanding society’s ecological, biophysical, and resource management footprint. To address the need for high quality land cover information we are using the global record of Landsat observations to compile annual maps of global land cover from 2001 to 2020 at 30 m spatial resolution. To create these maps we use features derived from time series of Landsat imagery in combination with ancillary geospatial data and a large database of training sites to classify land cover at annual time step. The algorithm that we apply uses temporal segmentation to identify periods with stable land cover that are separated by breakpoints in the time series. Here we provide an overview of the methods and data sets we are using to create global maps of land cover. We describe the algorithms used to create these maps and the core land cover data sets that we are creating through this effort, and we summarize our approach to accuracy assessment. We also present a synthesis of early results and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of our early map products and the challenges that we have encountered in creating global land cover data sets from Landsat. Initial accuracy assessment for North America shows good overall accuracy (77.0 ± 2.0% correctly classified) and 79.8% agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) WorldCover product. The land cover mapping results we report provide the foundation for robust, repeatable, and accurate mapping of global land cover and land cover change across multiple decades at 30 m spatial resolution from Landsat.