Aerial photos confirm misleading nature of WRI-coordinated mapping

(foresthints.news) - The use of only recent aerial photos as a basis for classifying current land cover conditions without referring to time-series data has been proven to not be guaranteed to produce an accurate land cover classification.

In light of this, it is not surprising that the LiDAR mapping team, under the coordination of the World Resources Institute (WRI) as well as under the advisory of the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) and funded by the Norwegian government, recently produced a misleading land cover misclassification.

The erroneous misclassification in question involved an area of seriously burned peatlands from 2015 equivalent in size to 660,000 soccer fields, most notably in a peat hydrological landscape in Central Kalimantan province along with two other peat hydrological landscapes in South Sumatra province.

The mistaken classification of these burned peatlands as secondary peat swamp forests by the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping team provides clear evidence of the neglect of time-series land cover data, exacerbated by the absence of any ground check.

To demonstrate how the error in classifying the land cover in 2015’s burned peatlands was made by the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping team, the foresthints.news spatial team used aerial photos showing the situation in the months after 2015’s peat fires as well as more than a year after the devastating fires.

These aerial photos were obtained by foresthints.news (Feb 5) from a professional mapping team which has concerns about the peat recovery process in Indonesia.

Months after peat fires

Given that the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping did not have aerial photos depicting the situation in the months after the peatlands were burned in 2015, and was only based on aerial photos taken more than one year after the peat fires, it is no surprise that such serious flaws arose in its classification of the land cover in 2015’s burned peatlands.

The aerial photo below illustrates the situation on the ground in the months after 2015’s peat fires. It clearly shows that the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping team made a grave error by classifying 2015’s burned peatlands, as seen in the image, as secondary peat swamp forest.

Basically, this error should have been avoided but the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping team failed both to refer to time-series land cover data and check the situation on the ground.

More than a year after peat fires

Classifying current land cover conditions by using only a recent aerial photo would certainly lead to such an erroneous classification as was made by the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping team.

The following aerial photo, taken at the same location as the previous one, portrays the situation more than a year after 2015’s peat fires. This resulted in the serious blunder made by the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping team by which it classified burned peatlands dominated by new ferns as secondary peat swamp forest.

This major classification error was not only technically misleading but also represents an extremely significant legal transgression.

Peat agency chief Nazir Foead has given an assurance that the agency will fix the mistakes made in the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping by using legal maps, as previously reported by foresthints.news (Jan 2).

However, by the time this news story was posted, the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry was still yet to use the flawed results of the WRI-coordinated LiDAR mapping. Among the reasons for this is that this issue of serious mapping inaccuracies still exists.