Forest change detection tool | SouthFACT

North Carolina Forest Service

NEMAC worked with the North Carolina Forest Service to design and develop Southern Forest Area Change Tools (SouthFACT), a web-based application for forest change detection that utilizes Landsat satellite imagery and additional GIS data to more precisely identify and quantify changes in forest cover as it occurs across the southern landscape—from Virginia to Florida to Oklahoma.  »

Helping Forest Managers Deliver Program Results

SouthFACT forest change analyses are provided to state forestry agencies and partners in a way that supports more efficient and effective program delivery, including wildfire control/rehabilitation, active/recently closed logging inspections, timely reforestation requests, early identification and response to forest health threats, and urban tree canopy damage assessments following disasters. The project area includes the 13 conterminous states that make up the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region.

SouthFACT provides users with the ability to view spatio-temporal change products developed from Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 imagery products. Change analyses are performed using various methods, including the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, the Normalized Difference Moisture Index, and Band 7 differencing. Analyses are performed "on-the-fly" as imagery becomes available. The data is hosted in a cloud-based platform, and the web application was constructed with free and open source software.

Landsat Data

The Landsat program, now administered by the U.S. Geological Survey, has run continuously since 1972—providing scientists with four decades of information to track changes in land use over time. Over the years, the Landsat program has been shifted to different federal government agencies, and went through an aborted effort at commercialization in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Its data is now freely distributed. Landsat 5 was launched in 1984, initially as a three-year mission, and is still in operation today. The most recent satellite, Landsat 8, launched on February 11, 2013, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Custom Requests

SouthFACT allows users with registered accounts to request custom GIS analysis. Users provide specific search criteria (a time range and area of interest); the tool includes the ability to upload project-based shapefiles. Results are provided via email, consisting of a compressed SouthFACT data product and a link to the SouthFACT web-based GIS viewer. 

Development Time Line

The SouthFACT website was launched in December 2015, with outreach and education efforts following in 2016.