Date of this Version
Zhang, L.; Hu, Q.; Tang, Z. Using Sentinel-2 Imagery and Machine Learning Algorithms to Assess the Inundation Status of Nebraska Conservation Easements during 2018–2021. Remote Sens. 2022, 14, 4382. https://doi.org/10.3390/ rs14174382
Conservation easements (CEs) play an important role in the provision of ecological services. This paper aims to use the open-access Sentinel-2 satellites to advance existing conservation management capacity to a new level of near-real-time monitoring and assessment for the conservation easements in Nebraska. This research uses machine learning and Google Earth Engine to classify inundation status using Sentinel-2 imagery during 2018–2021 for all CE sites in Nebraska, USA. The proposed machine learning approach helps monitor the CE sites at the landscape scale in an efficient and low-cost manner. The results confirmed effective inundation performance in these floodplain or wetland-related CE sites. The CE sites under the Emergency Watershed Protection- Floodplain Easement (EWPP-FPE) had the highest inundated area rate of 18.72%, indicating active hydrological inundation in the floodplain areas. The CE sites under the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) reached a mean annual surface water cover rate area of 8.07%, indicating the core wetland areas were inundated periodically or regularly. Other types of CEs serving upland conservation purposes had a lower level of inundation while these uplands conservation provided critical needs in soil erosion control. The mean annual surface water cover rate is 0.96% for the CE sites under the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). The conservation of the CEs on uplands is an important component to reduce soil erosion and improve downstream wetland hydrological inundation performance. The findings support that the sites with higher inundation frequencies can be considered for future wetland-related conservation practices. The four typical wetland-based CE sites suggested that conservation performance can be improved by implementing hydrological restoration and soil erosion reduction at the watershed scale. The findings provided robust evidence to discover the surface water inundation information on conservation assessment to achieve the long-term goals of conservation easements.