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Proceedings of the Symposium on Global and Environmental Monitoring

Bruce Thomas
TYDAC Technologies Inc.
1600 Carling Avenue, Suite 310
Ottawa, Ontario
K1Z 8R7
Anthony M. Turner
Sustainable Development/
State of Environment Reporting Branch
Environment Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
In order to assess recent anthropogenic impacts on an actively changing landscape
in Alberta, Landsat Thematic Mapper winter (band 3) and summer (bands 3-5-4,
boreal enhancement) transparencies were compared with Canada Land Inventory (CLI)
"Present Land Use" (circa 1961) maps using visual interpretation techniques. A
land use/land cover key was developed for 8 land use classes. A total of 49 pre
to post-change class combinations were possible. About 30 of these combinations
occurred in the region, were identified and mapped. Accuracy levels based on
numbers of polygons from representative areas achieved an overall accuracy level
of 86.7% when compared with aerial photography. About 20% of the Province of
Alberta (207 1:50,000 scale maps) was updated for land use/land cover. The maps
were subsequently digitized using automated techniques. Storage and analysis of
changes was facilitated using both mainframe and microcomputer based GIS systems.
Changes were compared with CLI land capability information in order to assess the
sustainability of the land for agriculture, forestry and wildlife resource uses.
Economic and operational implications of the project are discussed.
KEYWORDS: land use monitoring; change detection; land use change
There is little doubt that the primary
agent in present global environmental
changes is man. Perhaps the most visible
evidence of how man alters his environment
is available from viewing land use changes
from a topographic, land use map or
satellite image. Man's altering of the
natural landscape into one of agricultural
fields, road networks and urban
development can occur over a large area in
a relatively short period of time. The
collective impact of such actions may
affect the sustainability of the land for
other resources such as forestry or
wildlife habitat.
Earth resource satellites can provide
detailed, accurate and current land
use/land cover information at global,
national and regional scales. Resource
allocation planning, assessment of impacts
of land use changes on habitat and
assessing the interactions of climate, man
and vegetation are but three examples of
applications for such data.
Some of the most prominent examples of
extensive non-urban land use changes in
Canada occur in the so-called agriculture-
forest interface regions of the country
(Fox and Macenko, 1985) . An early
investigation of a select portion of one
of those regions - the Peace River region
in Alberta - produced a descriptive key of
land use and land cover units based on
visual analysis of Thematic Mapper (Farmer
et al., 1986). The key demonstrated that
several significant land uses were capable
of being detected and mapped.
Subsequently, a comparison of different
approaches concluded that visual analysis
could produce accurate results in a cost-
effective manner (Seguin and Ryerson,
1986). These findings led to a program of
operational mapping of about 115,000 km 2
of Alberta for land use change. This
paper summarizes that project.
In the province of Alberta, three broad
regions of land use have been identified
(Alberta Forestry Lands and Wildlife,
1988). There is a large area falling
under forestry management (often referred
to as the "green zone") ; a "white zone"
dominated by agricultural activity; and a
third transitional "yellow zone" having
substantial forest resources or potential,
yet not protected from agricultural
development. The project area encompassed
the entire transitional zone occupying
about 20% of the province.
The project area consisting of all or part
of 207 1:50 000 map sheet areas was
divided into three sectors: the Peace
River Zone, a Central Zone, and the
Foothills Zone (Figure 1) . Active
development of the Peace River Zone
continues as extensive areas of forest are
cleared for agriculture and other uses.
The Central Zone is mostly characterized
by undulating aspen parkland terrain
containing smaller, sometimes irregularly
shaped woodlands and agriculture fields.
The Foothills Zone in southwestern Alberta
possesses an intricate landscape of