Machine learning boosts Victorian vegetation maps

By on 24 January, 2022

Vicmap tree density map. Courtesy DELWP.

Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has launched three new Vicmap Vegetation machine-learning products that will help in a range of land management applications, from bushfires to precinct planning.

Machine-learning uses artificial intelligence to find patterns in massive amounts of data. For Vicmap Vegetation, the process identifies trees from the state’s collection of high-resolution aerial photography and elevation data from the Coordinated Imagery Program.

The updated Vicmap Vegetation portfolio provides detailed data on tree cover and tree points across select urban areas across the State.

This is the first-time machine-learning has been used to update and create a Vicmap product. Vicmap is Victoria’s suite of foundation spatial data.

The innovative approach means that tree cover extent can now be regularly updated as new imagery is acquired through the Coordinated Imagery Program, which was previously not possible.

With machine-learning, a state-wide dataset can be created or refreshed in under a week using cloud-based, parallel processing. This compares to labour-intensive manual methods estimated to take 100 full-time employees more than two years to deliver the same result.

DELWP has acknowledged the work of its delivery partner, FrontierSI.

Two of the new products are state-wide products — Tree Extent (20 cm resolution raster) and Tree Density (vector).

The Tree Urban product shows centrepoints and heights of trees. It has been created for metropolitan regions in four regional councils (Wangaratta, Shepparton, Sale and Ballarat) as well as for metropolitan Melbourne.

The regional focus provides an important opportunity for regional town planners, ecologists and spatial analysts to build upon any tree information held by local councils. There will be opportunities to extend this dataset as new input datasets such as LiDAR becomes available.

Vicmap products are accessed more than 100 million times a year across the Victorian Government’s digital platforms, supporting essential services, industry and innovation across the Victorian economy.

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