VEGETATION MAPPING OF A COASTAL DUNE COMPLEX USING MULTISPECTRAL IMAGERY ACQUIRED FROM AN UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEM
Vegetation mapping, identifying the distribution of plant species, is important for analysing vegetation dynamics, quantifying spatial patterns of vegetation evolution, analysing the effects of environment changes on vegetation, and predicting spatial patterns of species diversity. Such analysis can contribute to the development of targeted land management actions that maintain biodiversity and ecological functions. This paper represents a methodology for 3D vegetation mapping of a coastal dune complex using a multispectral camera mounted on an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) with particular reference to the Buckroney dune complex in Co. Wicklow, Ireland. UAS, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) or drones, have enabled high-resolution and high-accuracy ground-based data to be gathered quickly and easily on-site. The Sequoia multispectral camera used in this study has green, red, red-edge and near infrared wavebands, and a normal RGB camera, to capture both visible and NIR images of the land surface. The workflow of 3D vegetation mapping of the study site included establishing ground control points, planning the flight mission and camera parameters, acquiring the imagery, processing the image data and performing features classification. The data processing outcomes include an orthomosiac model, a 3D surface model and multispectral images of the study site, in the Irish Transverse Mercator coordinate system, with a planimetric resolution of 0.024 m and a georeferenced Root-Mean-Square (RMS) error of 0.111 m. There were 235 sample area (1 m × 1 m) used for the accuracy assessment of the classification of the vegetation mapping. Feature classification was conducted using three different classification strategies to examine the efficiency of multispectral sensor data for vegetation mapping. Vegetation type classification accuracies ranged from 60 % to 70 %. This research illustrates the efficiency of data collection at Buckroney dune complex and the high-accuracy and high-resolution of the vegetation mapping of the site using a multispectral sensor mounted on UAS.