Unsupervised segmentation optimization methods have been proposed to aid in selecting an “optimal” set of scale parameters quickly and objectively for object-based image analysis. The goal of this study was to qualitatively assess three unsupervised approaches using both moderate-resolution Landsat and high-resolution Ikonos imagery from two study sites with different landscape characteristics to demonstrate the continued need for analyst intervention during the segmentation process. The results demonstrate that these methods selected parameters that were optimal for the scene which varied with method, image type, and site complexity. Several takeaways from this exercise are as follows: (1) some methods do not work as intended, (2) single-scale unsupervised optimization procedures cannot be expected to properly segment all the features of interest in the image every time, and (3) many multi-scale approaches require subjectively chosen weights or thresholds or additional testing to determine those values that meet the objective. Visual inspection of segmentation results is still required in order to assess over and under-segmentation as no method can be expected to select the best parameters for land cover classifications every time. These approaches should instead be used to narrow down parameter values in order to save time.
The assessment of storm damages is critically important if resource managers are to understand the impacts of weather pattern changes and sea level rise on their lands and develop management strategies to mitigate its effects. This study was performed to detect land cover change on Assateague Island as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Several single-date classifications were performed on the pre and post hurricane imagery utilized using both a pixel-based and object-based approach with the Random Forest classifier. Univariate image differencing and a post classification comparison were used to conduct the change detection. This study found that the addition of the coastal blue band to the Landsat 8 sensor did not improve classification accuracy and there was also no statistically significant improvement in classification accuracy using Landsat 8 compared to Landsat 5. Furthermore, there was no significant difference found between object-based and pixel-based classification. Change totals were estimated on Assateague Island following Hurricane Sandy and were found to be minimal, occurring predominately in the most active sections of the island in terms of land cover change, however, the post classification detected significantly more change, mainly due to classification errors in the single-date maps used.