Land cover change on Mt. Pinatubo, the Philippines, monitored using ASTER VNIR
Ronald Charles De Rose, Takashi Oguchi, Wataru Morishima, Mario Collado
International Journal of Remote Sensing
Vol. 32, Iss. 24, 2011
Ashfall and pyroclastic flows from the large eruption of June 1991 destroyed much of the vegetation on the flanks of Mt. Pinatubo. Subsequent vegetation recovery has helped stabilize slopes and reduce debris flow hazard. In this project, visible and near-infrared (VNIR) satellite imagery from the advanced spaceborne thermal emission and reflection radiometer (ASTER) captured at a similar time of year in 2001, 2004 and 2008 were used to quantify vegetation recovery within 22 upland watersheds on the mountain, 10–16 years after the eruption took place. Differences in the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) derived from these images were used to measure the areal extent of losses and gains in ground cover and derive average net rates of change in ground cover. The success of this approach was dependent on post-processing ASTER imagery to correct for the effects of variation in satellite-sun geometry and vegetation reflectance and to calibrate and adjust the derived NDVI images for the influence of different atmospheric conditions at the time of image capture. All watersheds showed a variable pattern of losses and gains in vegetation and ground cover. Losses were related to shifting cultivation practices and gully and channel migration, and these amounted to 1–12% of watershed areas. Gains were related to revegetation of pyroclastic flows, recent channel terraces, abandoned gardens and areas of burnt vegetation, and these amounted to 3–45% of watershed areas. Consistent overall net gains in ground cover were observed in all watersheds, with the average NDVI increasing by up to 0.074 over each consecutive 3-year period. The rates of change in NDVI were used to derive a vegetation recovery curve from bare ground. The result showed that it will take approximately 50 years for hillslopes to regain a dense vegetative cover in this climate. This supports published findings which indicate rapid recovery of vegetation in tropical environments following such large volcanic eruptions. Results additionally showed that the trajectory of change and the speed of recovery were influenced by terrain type, geology, watershed morphology and the activity of erosion and depositional processes. Prior to 2001, revegetation had been fastest on mountain slopes that helped protect vegetation from the effects of eruption. Gains in ground cover are now greatest in areas that were most impacted by the eruption.
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