Beyond presence mapping: Predicting fractional cover of non-native vegetation in Sentinel-2 imagery using an ensemble of MaxEnt models

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation
By: , and 



Non-native species maps are important tools for understanding and managing biological invasions. We demonstrate a novel approach to extend presence modeling to map fractional cover (FC) of non-native yellow sweet clover Melilotus officinalis in the Northern Great Plains, USA. We used ensembles of MaxEnt models to map FC across landscapes from satellite imagery trained from regional aerial imagery that was trained by local unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) imagery. Clover cover from field surveys and classified UAV imagery were nearly identical (n = 22, R2 = 0.99). Two classified UAV images provided training data to map clover presence with MaxEnt and National Agricultural Imagery Program (NAIP) aerial imagery. We binned cover predictions from NAIP imagery within each Sentinel-2 pixel into eight cover classes to create pure (100%) and FC (20%–95%) training data and modeled each class separately using MaxEnt and Sentinel-2 imagery. We mapped pure clover with one classification threshold and compared its performance to 15 candidate maps that included FC predictions outside pure predictions. Each FC map represented alternative combinations of five MaxEnt thresholds and three approaches to assign cover to pixels with multiple predictions from the FC ensemble. Evaluations of performance with independent datasets revealed maps including FC corresponded to field (n = 32, R2 range: 0.39–0.68) and UAV (n = 20, R2 range: 0.61–0.84) data better than pure clover maps (R2 = 0.15 and 0.31, respectively). Overall, the pure clover map predicted 3.2% cover, whereas the three best performing FC maps predicted 6.6%–8.0% cover. Including FC predictions increased accuracy and cover predictions which can improve ecological understanding of invasions. Our method allows efficient FC mapping for vegetative species discernible in UAV imagery and may be especially useful for mapping rare, irruptive or patchily distributed species with poor representation in field data, which challenges landscape-level mapping.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Beyond presence mapping: Predicting fractional cover of non-native vegetation in Sentinel-2 imagery using an ensemble of MaxEnt models
Series title Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation
DOI 10.1002/rse2.325
Volume 9
Issue 4
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 15 p.
First page 512
Last page 526
Country United States
State Montana, South Dakota
County Butte County, Harding County, Musselshell County
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details