UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Extraction of Forest Road Information from CubeSat Imagery Using Convolutional Neural Networks Winiwarter, Lukas; Coops, Nicholas C.; Bastyr, Alex; Roussel, Jean-Romain; Zhao, Daisy Q. R.; Lamb, Clayton T.; Ford, Adam T.


Forest roads provide access to remote wooded areas, serving as key transportation routes and contributing to human impact on the local environment. However, large animals, such as bears (Ursus sp.), moose (Alces alces), and caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), are affected by their presence. Many publicly available road layers are outdated or inaccurate, making the assessment of landscape objectives difficult. To address these gaps in road location data, we employ CubeSat Imagery from the Planet constellation to predict the occurrence of road probabilities using a SegNet Convolutional Neural Network. Our research examines the potential of a pre-trained neural network (VGG-16 trained on ImageNet) transferred to the remote sensing domain. The classification is refined through post-processing, which considers spatial misalignment and road width variability. On a withheld test subset, we achieve an overall accuracy of 99.1%, a precision of 76.1%, and a recall of 91.2% (F1-Score: 83.0%) after considering these effects. We investigate the performance with respect to canopy coverage using a spectral greenness index, topography (slope and aspect), and land cover metrics. Results found that predictions are best in flat areas, with low to medium canopy coverage, and in the forest (coniferous and deciduous) land cover classes. The results are vectorized into a drivable road network, allowing for vector-based routing and coverage analyses. Our approach digitized 14,359 km of roads in a 23,500 km² area in British Columbia, Canada. Compared to a governmental dataset, our method missed 10,869 km but detected an additional 5774 km of roads connected to the network. Finally, we use the detected road locations to investigate road age by accessing an archive of Landsat data, allowing spatiotemporal modelling of road access to remote areas. This provides important information on the development of the road network over time and the calculation of impacts, such as cumulative effects on wildlife.

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