Kushiro wetland in northeastern Japan is a Ramsar-designated wetland of international importance (1980) that is characterized by high biodiversity and spatial heterogeneity. These characteristics of the wetland also present innumerable challenges for mapping and monitoring such unique ecosystems. Recent advances in remote sensing technology have provided many sensors with different spatial and spectral scales and resolutions. However, they are still inadequate for mapping wetland vegetation at a large scale for various reasons, such as inadequate resolution and high costs. This study was designed to evaluate the potential of balloon aerial photography to acquire high resolution (15 cm pixel size) imagery for mapping wetland vegetation in the Akanuma marsh. We used a standard 28-mm non-metric camera (Nikon-F-801), which was mounted on helium-filled balloons operated by a remote radio-controlled system. By creating digital vegetation maps from visual interpretation of mosaicked photos, ten general types of vegetation and twenty-seven specific categories (species mixes) were successfully delineated. It was possible to classify small shrubs mixed with herbaceous plants; moss bogs with pools; dwarf shrubs with sedges; and moss with alpine plants. From this research, it seems that balloon aerial photography is a powerful tool for mapping temperate wetland vegetation, allowing classification of specific and typical vegetation types to the genus and species level.
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Vol. 24 • No. 3