Mapping small inland wetlands in the South-Kivu province by integrating optical and SAR data with statistical models for accurate distribution assessment
There are several techniques for mapping wetlands. In this study, we examined four statistical models to assess the potential distribution of wetlands in the South-Kivu province by combining optical and SAR images. The approach involved integrating topographic, hydrological, and vegetation indices into the four most used classifiers, namely Artificial Neural Network (ANN), Random Forest (RF), Boosted Regression Tree (BRT), and Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt). A wetland distribution map was generated and classified into 'wetland' and 'non-wetland.' The results showed variations in predictions among the different models. RF exhibited the most accurate predictions, achieving an overall classification accuracy of 95.67% and AUC and TSS values of 82.4%. Integrating SAR data improved accuracy and precision, particularly for mapping small inland wetlands. Our estimations indicate that wetlands cover approximately 13.5% (898,690 ha) of the entire province. BRT estimated wetland areas to be?~?16% (1,106,080 ha), while ANN estimated?~?14% (967,820 ha), MaxEnt?~?15% (1,036,950 ha), and RF approximately?~?10% (691,300 ha). The distribution of these areas varied across different territories, with higher values observed in Mwenga, Shabunda, and Fizi. Many of these areas are permanently flooded, while others experience seasonal inundation. Through digitization, the delineation process revealed variations in wetland areas, ranging from tens to thousands of hectares. The geographical distribution of wetlands generated in this study will serve as an essential reference for future investigations and pave the way for further research on characterizing and categorizing these areas.