Mapping caribou habitat north of the 51st parallel in Québec using Landsat imagery
AbstractA methodology using Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) images and vegetation typology, based on lichens as the principal component of caribou winter diet, was developed to map caribou habitat over a large and diversified area of Northern Québec. This approach includes field validation by aerial surveys (helicopter), classification of vegetation types, image enhancement, visual interpretation and computer assisted mapping. Measurements from more than 1500 field sites collected over six field campaigns from 1989 to 1996 represented the data analysed in this study. As the study progressed, 14 vegetation classes were defined and retained for analyses. Vegetation classes denoting important caribou habitat included six classes of upland lichen communities (Lichen, Lichen-Shrub, Shrub-Lichen, Lichen-Graminoid-Shrub, Lichen-Woodland, Lichen-Shrub-Woodland). Two classes (Burnt-over area, Regenerating burnt-over area) are related to forest fire, and as they develop towards lichen communities, will become important for caribou. The last six classes are retained to depict remaining vegetation cover types. A total of 37 Landsat TM scenes were geocoded and enhanced using two methods: the Taylor method and the false colour composite method (bands combination and stretching). Visual inter¬pretation was chosen as the most efficient and reliable method to map vegetation types related to caribou habitat. The 43 maps produced at the scale of 1:250 000 and the synthesis map (1:2 000 000) provide a regional perspective of caribou habitat over 1200 000 km2 covering the entire range of the George river herd. The numerical nature of the data allows rapid spatial analysis and map updating.
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