Area and spatial distribution information of paddy rice are important for understanding of food security, water use, greenhouse gas emission, and disease transmission. Due to climatic warming and increasing food demand, paddy rice has been expanding rapidly in high latitude areas in the last decade, particularly in northeastern (NE) Asia. Current knowledge about paddy rice fields in these cold regions is limited. The phenology- and pixel-based paddy rice mapping (PPPM) algorithm, which identifies the flooding signals in the rice transplanting phase, has been effectively applied in tropical areas, but has not been tested at large scale of cold regions yet. Despite the effects from more snow/ice, paddy rice mapping in high latitude areas is assumed to be more encouraging due to less clouds, lower cropping intensity, and more observations from Landsat sidelaps. Moreover, the enhanced temporal and geographic coverage from Landsat 8 provides an opportunity to acquire phenology information and map paddy rice. This study evaluated the potential of Landsat 8 images on annual paddy rice mapping in NE Asia which was dominated by single cropping system, including Japan, North Korea, South Korea, and NE China. The cloud computing approach was used to process all the available Landsat 8 imagery in 2014 (143 path/rows, ~ 3290 scenes) with the Google Earth Engine (GEE) platform. The results indicated that the Landsat 8, GEE, and improved PPPM algorithm can effectively support the yearly mapping of paddy rice in NE Asia. The resultant paddy rice map has a high accuracy with the producer (user) accuracy of 73% (92%), based on the validation using very high resolution images and intensive field photos. Geographic characteristics of paddy rice distribution were analyzed from aspects of country, elevation, latitude, and climate. The resultant 30-m paddy rice map is expected to provide unprecedented details about the area, spatial distribution, and landscape pattern of paddy rice fields in NE Asia, which will contribute to food security assessment, water resource management, estimation of greenhouse gas emissions, and disease control.
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