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Scale Matters: Spatially Partitioned Unsupervised Segmentation Parameter Optimization for Large and Heterogeneous Satellite Images

In Remote Sensing 10 (9)

To classify Very-High-Resolution (VHR) imagery, Geographic Object Based Image Analysis (GEOBIA) is the most popular method used to produce high quality Land-Use/Land-Cover maps. A crucial step in GEOBIA is the appropriate parametrization of the segmentation algorithm prior to the classification. However, little effort has been made to automatically optimize GEOBIA algorithms in an unsupervised and spatially meaningful manner. So far, most Unsupervised Segmentation Parameter Optimization (USPO) techniques, assume spatial stationarity for the whole study area extent. This can be questionable, particularly for applications in geographically large and heterogeneous urban areas. In this study, we employed a novel framework named Spatially Partitioned Unsupervised Segmentation Parameter Optimization (SPUSPO), which optimizes segmentation parameters locally rather than globally, for the Sub-Saharan African city of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, using WorldView-3 imagery (607 km2). The results showed that there exists significant spatial variation in the optimal segmentation parameters suggested by USPO across the whole scene, which follows landscape patterns—mainly of the various built-up and vegetation types. The most appropriate automatic spatial partitioning method from the investigated techniques, was an edge-detection cutline algorithm, which achieved higher classification accuracy than a global optimization, better predicted built-up regions, and did not suffer from edge effects. The overall classification accuracy using SPUSPO was 90.5%, whilst the accuracy from undertaking a traditional USPO approach was 89.5%. The differences between them were statistically significant (p < 0.05) based on a McNemar’s test of similarity. Our methods were validated further by employing a segmentation goodness metric, Area Fit Index (AFI)on building objects across Ouagadougou, which suggested that a global USPO was more over-segmented than our local approach. The mean AFI values for SPUSPO and USPO were 0.28 and 0.36, respectively. Finally, the processing was carried out using the open-source software GRASS GIS, due to its efficiency in raster-based applications.

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