Remote Sensing (May 2014)

Time Series Analysis of Land Cover Change: Developing Statistical Tools to Determine Significance of Land Cover Changes in Persistence Analyses

  • Peter Waylen,
  • Jane Southworth,
  • Cerian Gibbes,
  • Huiping Tsai

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 6, no. 5
pp. 4473 – 4497


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Despite the existence of long term remotely sensed datasets, change detection methods are limited and often remain an obstacle to the effective use of time series approaches in remote sensing applications to Land Change Science. This paper establishes some simple statistical tests to be applied to NDVI-derived time series of remotely sensed data products. Specifically, the methods determine the statistical significance of three separate metrics of the persistence of vegetation cover or changes within a landscape by comparison to various forms of “benchmarks”; directional persistence (changes in sign relative to some fixed reference value), relative directional persistence (changes in sign relative to the preceding value), and massive persistence (changes in magnitude relative to the preceding value). Null hypotheses are developed on the basis of serially independent, normally distributed random variables. Critical values are established theoretically through consideration of the numeric properties of those variables, application of extensive Monte Carlo simulations, and parallels to random walk processes. Monthly pixel-level NDVI values for the state of Florida are analyzed over 25 years, illustrating the techniques’ abilities to identify areas and/or times of significant change, and facilitate a more detailed understanding of this landscape. The potential power and utility of such techniques is diverse within the area of remote sensing studies and Land Change Science, especially in the context of global change.