Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Janet H. Gritzner


Many scientists investigating forestry problems have advocated the use of operational satellite remote sensing systems as a source of forest inventory information. Satellite systems offer the potential of world-wide repeat coverage, but their inability to discriminate individual trees restricts the level of detailed forest information that can be acquired. Forested lands are easily identified on Landsat multispectral scanner (MSS) imagery, and the discrimination between mixed decidious and evergreen forest stands can be made with multi-date comparisons. This study concentrates on the question of how much more detailed information can be reliably obtained from Landsat MSS data. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the sensitivity of the Landsat MSS to: 1) variations of species within a forest plantation and 2) age, crown closure, and stand densities (i.e. thinnings) within the species. This investigation can be justified in several ways. First, as a geographical study; plant geography is the branch of science that attempts to describe and explain the uneven distribution of plants upon the surface of the earth. The distribution of plants reflects the influence of several factors such as climatic conditions, precipitation, topography, soils and human activity. Thus, vegetation serves to give a region its character, and may be used to differentiate regions and their components. The first step toward describing and explaining plant distributions is to map them. The Landsat remote sensing system provides geographers with a powerful tool for mapping and monitoring the earth's vegetation. This study, to evaluate the sensitivity of the Landsat MSS to subtle variations of vegetation within a man-made forest, is an exercise in vegetation mapping. Another justification for this study is based upon the growing need of forest managers for more extensive and detailed forest data. This study is a continuation of previous investigations by others to determine the amount of detailed forest information available in Landsat data. This study will attempt to determine whether combinations of species, age, crown closure and thinnings within a forest plantation result in unique spectral signatures that can be detected by the Landsat MSS.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Remote sensing
Forest mapping
Forest management



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


No Copyright - United State