Automatic Detection of Open and Vegetated Water Bodies Using Sentinel 1 to Map African Malaria Vector Mosquito Breeding Habitats

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Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Article number593
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2019
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Providing timely and accurate maps of surface water is valuable for mapping malaria risk and targeting disease control interventions. Radar satellite remote sensing has the potential to provide this information but current approaches are not suitable for mapping African malarial mosquito aquatic habitats that tend to be highly dynamic, often with emergent vegetation. We present a novel approach for mapping both open and vegetated water bodies using serial Sentinel- 1 imagery for Western Zambia. This region is dominated by the seasonally inundated Upper Zambezi floodplain that suffers from a number of public health challenges. The approach uses open source segmentation and machine learning (extra trees classifier), applied to training data that are automatically derived using freely available ancillary data. Refinement is implemented through a consensus approach and Otsu thresholding to eliminate false positives due to dry flat sandy areas. The results indicate a high degree of accuracy (mean overall accuracy 92% st dev 3.6) providing a tractable solution for operationally mapping water bodies in similar large river floodplain unforested environments. For the period studied, 70% of the total water extent mapped was attributed to vegetated water, highlighting the importance of mapping both open and vegetated water bodies for surface water mapping.


  • flood mapping, water body detection, malaria, wetland, Sentinel-1, open-source, sub-Saharan Africa, hydrology