Monitoring the impact of surface coal mining on vegetation in southwestern Indiana using remote sensing and GIS

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Wang, Wei J.
Yang, Jian-sheng
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Thesis (M.S.)
Department of Geography
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Surface coal mining leads to inevitable changes and notable impact on the physical environment of the earth and engenders immense damage to the landscape and the ecological environment. The dramatic high-speed rock digging and disturbance unavoidably causes ecosystem degradation and destruction. Detecting how surface coal mining affects the environment on the process of land use/cover change is one of the primary concerns to preserve nature and minimize the environmental impacts. Therefore, monitoring and understanding the environmental impact processes in mining areas is critical for sustainable management of the Earth's environment. In this thesis, remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) are applied to assess the spatial environmental impact caused by surface coal mining in southwestern Indiana. The goal of this research is to develop a methodology to classify the coal mining field using satellite imagery and to quantify and assess land use /cover changes using remote sensing and GIS. The specific methods include classification of Landsat Thermal Mapper (TM) data and comparison of the spatial patterns of the classification results in the study region. The results are presented with a 3-D model to better understand and visualize the coal mining effects on the landscape. Results obtained in this study indicate the change area of land use/cover and the potential area for planting crops in southwestern Indiana. Based on the observation of the data results, vegetation in the study area was found to have changed significantly over the study period. In particular, the developed areas have been increasing quickly and the areas of agriculture and forests have been decreasing appreciably.