Remote sensing of selective logging in Amazonia: Assessing limitations based on detailed field observations, Landsat ETM+, and textural analysis

Gregory P. Asner, Michael Keller, Rodrigo Pereira, Johan C. Zweede

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


We combined a detailed field study of forest canopy damage with calibrated Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) reflectance data and texture analysis to assess the sensitivity of basic broadband optical remote sensing to selective logging in Amazonia. Our field study encompassed measurements of ground damage and canopy gap fractions along a chronosequence of postharvest regrowth of 0.5-3.5 years. We found that canopy damage and regrowth rates varied according to the logging method used, either conventional logging or reduced impact logging. Areas used to stage felled trees prior to transport, log decks, had the largest gap fractions immediately following cutting. Log decks were quickly colonized by early successional plant species, resulting in significant gap fraction decreases within 1.5 years after site abandonment. Although log decks were the most obvious damage areas on the ground and in satellite imagery, they accounted for only 1-2% of the total harvested area of the blocks studied. Other forest damage features such as tree-fall gaps, skid trails, and roads were difficult to recognize in Landsat reflectance data or through textural analysis. These landscape features could be only crudely resolved in the most intensively logged forests and within about 0.5 years following harvest. We found that forest damage within any of the landscape strata (decks, roads, skids, tree falls) could not be resolved with Landsat reflectance or texture data when the canopy gap fraction was < 50%. The basic Landsat ETM+ imagery lacks the resolution of forest structural features required for quantitative studies of logging damage. Landsat textural analyses may be useful for broad delineation of logged forests, but detailed ecological and biogeochemical studies will probably need to rely on other remote sensing approaches. Until spatial gradients of canopy damage and regrowth resulting from selective logging operations in tropical forests in the Amazon region are resolved, the impacts of this land use on a continental scale will remain poorly understood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-496
Number of pages14
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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