Ecological monitoring of semi-natural grasslands: statistical analysis of dense satellite image time series with high spatial resolution

Mailys Lopes 1, 2
1 MISTIS - Modelling and Inference of Complex and Structured Stochastic Systems
Inria Grenoble - Rhône-Alpes, LJK - Laboratoire Jean Kuntzmann, INPG - Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble
Abstract : Grasslands are a significant source of biodiversity in farmed landscapes that is important to monitor. New generation satellites such as Sentinel-2 offer new opportunities for grassland’s monitoring thanks to their combined high spatial and temporal resolutions. Conversely, the new type of data provided by these sensors involves big data and high dimensional issues because of the increasing number of pixels to process and the large number of spectro-temporal variables. This thesis explores the potential of the new generation satellites to monitor biodiversity and factors that influence biodiversity in semi-natural grasslands. Tools suitable for the statistical analysis of grasslands using dense satellite image time series (SITS) with high spatial resolution are provided. First, we show that the spectro-temporal response of grasslands is characterized by its variability within and among the grasslands. Then, for the statistical analysis, grasslands are modeled at the object level to be consistent with ecological models that represent grasslands at the field scale. We propose to model the distribution of pixels in a grassland by a Gaussian distribution. Following this modeling, similarity measures between two Gaussian distributions robust to the high dimension are developed for the classification of grasslands using dense SITS: the High-Dimensional Kullback-Leibler Divergence and the α-Gaussian Mean Kernel. The latter out-performs conventional methods used with Support Vector Machines for the classification of grasslands according to their management practices and to their age. Finally, indicators of grassland biodiversity issued from dense SITS are proposed through spectro-temporal heterogeneity measures derived from the unsupervised clustering of grasslands. Their correlation with the Shannon index is significant but low. The results suggest that the spectro-temporal variations measured from SITS at a spatial resolution of 10 meters covering the period when the practices occur are more related to the intensity of management practices than to the species diversity. Therefore, although the spatial and spectral properties of Sentinel-2 seem limited to assess the species diversity in grasslands directly, this satellite should make possible the continuous monitoring of factors influencing biodiversity in grasslands. In this thesis, we provided methods that account for the heterogeneity within grasslands and enable the use of all the spectral and temporal information provided by new generation satellites.
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Mailys Lopes. Ecological monitoring of semi-natural grasslands: statistical analysis of dense satellite image time series with high spatial resolution. Statistics [math.ST]. Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse, 2017. English. ⟨tel-01684474⟩

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