Improving remote species identification through efficient training data collection

Claire A. Baldeck, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Plant species identification and mapping based on remotely-sensed spectral signatures is a challenging task with the potential to contribute enormously to ecological studies. Success in this task rests upon the appropriate collection and use of costly field-based training data, and researchers are in need of ways to improve collection efficiency based on quantitative evidence. Using imaging spectrometer data collected by the Carnegie Airborne Observatory for hundreds of field-identified tree crowns in Kruger National Park, South Africa, we developed woody plant species classification models and evaluated how classification accuracy increases with increasing numbers of training crowns. First, we show that classification accuracy must be estimated while respecting the crown as the basic unit of data; otherwise, accuracy will be overestimated and the amount of training data needed to perform successful classification will be underestimated. We found that classification accuracy and the number of training crowns needed to perform successful classification varied depending on the number and spectral separability of species in the model. We also used a modified Michaelis-Menten function to describe the empirical relationship between training crowns and model accuracy, and show how this function may be useful for predicting accuracy. This framework can assist researchers in designing field campaigns to maximize the efficiency of field data collection, and thus the amount of biodiversity information gained from remote species identification models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2682-2698
Number of pages17
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodiversity
  • Carnegie airborne observatory
  • Hyperspectral
  • Imaging spectroscopy
  • Species identification
  • Support vector machine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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