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Detection of oil pollution impacts on vegetation using multifrequency SAR, multispectral images with fuzzy forest and random forest methods

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posted on 2019-10-15, 15:08 authored by Mohammed Ozigis, Jorg Kaduk, Claire Jarvis, Polyanna da Conceição Bispo, Heiko Balzter
Oil pollution harms terrestrial ecosystems. There is an urgent requirement to improve on existing methods for detecting, mapping and establishing the precise extent of oil-impacted and oil-free vegetation. This is needed to quantify existing spill extents, formulate effective remediation strategies and to enable effective pipeline monitoring strategies to identify leakages at an early stage. An effective oil spill detection algorithm based on optical image spectral responses can benefit immensely from the inclusion of multi-frequency Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data, especially when the effect of multi-collinearity is sufficiently reduced. This study compared the Fuzzy Forest (FF) and Random Forest (RF) methods in detecting and mapping oil-impacted vegetation from a post spill multispectral sentinel 2 image and multifrequency C and X Band Sentinel – 1, COSMO Skymed and TanDEM-X images. FF and RF classifiers were employed to discriminate oil-spill impacted and oil-free vegetation in a study area in Nigeria. Fuzzy Forest uses specific functions for the selection and use of uncorrelated variables in the classification process to yield an improved result. This method proved an efficient variable selection technique addressing the effects of high dimensionality and multi-collinearity, as the optimization and use of different SAR and optical image variables generated more accurate results than the RF algorithm in densely vegetated areas. An Overall Accuracy (OA) of 75% was obtained for the dense (Tree Cover Area) vegetation, while cropland and grassland areas had 59.4% and 65% OA respectively. However, RF performed better in Cropland areas with OA = 75% when SAR-optical image variables were used for classification, while both methods performed equally well in Grassland areas with OA = 65%. Similarly, significant backscatter differences (P < 0.005) were observed in the C-Band backscatter sample mean of polluted and oil-free TCA, while strong linear associations existed between LAI and backscatter in grassland and TCA. This study demonstrates that SAR based monitoring of petroleum hydrocarbon impacts on vegetation is feasible and has high potential for establishing oil-impacted areas and oil pipeline monitoring.


This research was undertaken with financial support through a scholarship provided by the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no 660,020, Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (2011/R3), Natural Environment Research Council's National Centre for Earth Observation.



Environmental Pollution, 2019

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/School of Geography, Geology and the Environment/GIS and Remote Sensing


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Environmental Pollution







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