A framework of filtering rules over ground truth samples to achieve higher accuracy in land cover maps

Mario Padial-Iglesias*, Pere Serra, Miquel Ninyerola, Xavier Pons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Remote Sensing (RS) digital classification techniques require sufficient, accurate and ubiquitously distributed ground truth (GT) samples. GT is usually considered “true” per se; however, human errors, or differences in criteria when defining classes, among other reasons, often undermine this veracity. Trusting the GT is so crucial that protocols should be defined for making additional quality checks before passing to the classification stage. Fortunately, the nature of RS imagery allows setting a framework of quality controls to improve the confidence in the GT areas by proposing a set of filtering rules based on data from the images themselves. In our experiment, two pre-existing reference datasets (rDS) were used to obtain GT candidate pixels, over which inconsistencies were identified. This served as a basis for inferring five key filtering rules based on NDVI data, a product available from almost all RS instruments. We evaluated the performance of the rules in four temporal study cases (under backdating and updating scenarios) and two study areas. In each case, a set of GT samples was extracted from the rDS and the set was used both unfiltered (original) and filtered according to the rules. Our proposal shows that the filtered GT samples made it possible to solve usual problems in wilderness and agricultural categories. Indeed, the confusion matrices revealed, on average, an increase in the overall accuracy of 10.9, a decrease in the omission error of 16.8, and a decrease in the commission error of 14.0, all values in percent points. Filtering rules corrected inconsistencies in the GT samples extracted from the rDS by considering inter-annual and intra-annual differences, scale issues, multiple behaviours over time and labelling misassignments. Therefore, although some intrinsic limitations have been detected (as in mixed forests), the protocol allows a much better Land Cover mapping thanks to using more robust GT samples, something particularly important in a multitemporal context in which accounting for phenology is essential.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2662
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2021


  • Digital image classification
  • Filtering rules
  • Ground truth samples
  • Land-cover change mapping
  • Landsat


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