Automatic classification of major urban land covers based on novel spectral indices

Mst Ilme Faridatul, Bo Wu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Urban land cover classification and mapping is an important and ongoing research field in monitoring and managing urban sprawl and terrestrial ecosystems. The changes in land cover largely affect the terrestrial ecosystem, thus information on land cover is important for understanding the ecological environment. Quantification of land cover in urban areas is challenging due to their diversified activities and large spatial and temporal variations. To improve urban land cover classification and mapping, this study presents three new spectral indices and an automated approach to classifying four major urban land types: impervious, bare land, vegetation, and water. A modified normalized difference bare-land index (MNDBI) is proposed to enhance the separation of impervious and bare land. A tasseled cap water and vegetation index (TCWVI) is proposed to enhance the detection of vegetation and water areas. A shadow index (ShDI) is proposed to further improve water detection by separating water from shadows. An approach for optimizing the thresholds of the new indices is also developed. Finally, the optimized thresholds are used to classify land covers using a decision tree algorithm. Using Landsat-8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) data from two study sites (Hong Kong and Dhaka City, Bangladesh) with different urban characteristics, the proposed approach is systematically evaluated. Spectral separability analysis of the new indices is performed and compared with other common indices. The urban land cover classifications achieved by the proposed approach are compared with those of the classic support vector machine (SVM) algorithm. The proposed approach achieves an overall classification accuracy of 94–96%, which is superior to the accuracy of the SVM algorithm.

Original languageEnglish
Article number453
JournalISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2018


  • Classification
  • Land cover
  • Spectral indices
  • Terrestrial ecosystem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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