The spatial distribution of different grassland types is important for effectively analyzing spatial patterns, obtaining key vegetation parameters using remote sensing (e.g., biomass, leaf area index, net primary production), and using and protecting grasslands. Existing classifications of grasslands by remote sensing are mostly divided according to the fractional vegetation cover or biomass, but classifications according to grassland types are scarce. In this study, we focused on the classification of different grassland types using remote sensing based on object-based image analysis (OBIA) with multitemporal images in combination with a 30-m digital elevation model (DEM) and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). The grasslands were located in Hulunber, InnerMongolia, and an autonomous region of China. The support vector machine (SVM) and random forest (RF) machine learning classifiers were selected for the classification. The results revealed the following: 1) It is feasible to generally extract different grassland types on the basis of OBIA with multisource data; the overall classification accuracy and Kappa value exceeded 90% and 0.9, respectively, using the SVM and RF machine learning classifiers, and the classification accuracy of the different grassland types ranged from 61.64% to 98.71%; 2) Multitemporal images and auxiliary data (DEM and NDVI) improved the separability of different grassland types. The information in the growing season was conducive for distinguishing temperate meadow steppe from temperate steppe and was favorable for extracting lowland meadow and swamp in the nongrowing season. The DEM and NDVI also effectively reduced the number of image segmentation objects and improved the segmentation effects; 3) Spectral and textural features were more important than geometric features in this study. A few main variables played a major role in the classification, while a large number of variables had either no significant effect or a negative effect on the classification results when the optimal feature subset was determined. This study provides a scientific basis and reference for the classification of various grassland types by remote sensing, including the data selection, image segmentation, feature selection, classifier selection, and parameter settings.
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