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  1. Detecting small objects (e.g., manhole covers, license plates, and roadside milestones) in urban images is a long-standing challenge mainly due to the scale of small object and background clutter. Although convolution neural network (CNN)-based methods have made significant progress and achieved impressive results in generic object detection, the problem of small object detection remains unsolved. To address this challenge, in this study we developed an end-to-end network architecture that has three significant characteristics compared to previous works. First, we designed a backbone network module, namely Reduced Downsampling Network (RD-Net), to extract informative feature representations with high spatial resolutions and preserve local information for small objects. Second, we introduced an Adjustable Sample Selection (ADSS) module which frees the Intersection-over-Union (IoU) threshold hyperparameters and defines positive and negative training samples based on statistical characteristics between generated anchors and ground reference bounding boxes. Third, we incorporated the generalized Intersection-over-Union (GIoU) loss for bounding box regression, which efficiently bridges the gap between distance-based optimization loss and area-based evaluation metrics. We demonstrated the effectiveness of our method by performing extensive experiments on the public Urban Element Detection (UED) dataset acquired by Mobile Mapping Systems (MMS). The Average Precision (AP) of the proposed method was 81.71%, representing an improvement of 1.2% compared with the popular detection framework Faster R-CNN. 
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  2. null (Ed.)
    Community forests have been established worldwide to sustainably manage forest ecosystem services while maintaining the livelihoods of local residents. The Chitwan National Park in Nepal is a world-renowned biodiversity hotspot, where community forests were consolidated in the park’s buffer zone after 1993. These western Chitwan community forests stand as the frontiers of human–environment interactions, nurturing endangered large mammal species while providing significant natural resources for local residents. Nevertheless, no systematic forest cover assessment has been conducted for these forests since their establishment. In this study, we examined the green vegetation dynamics of these community forests for the years 1988–2018 using Landsat surface reflectance products. Combining an automatic water extraction index, spectral mixture analysis and the normalized difference fraction index (NDFI), we developed water masks and quantified the water-adjusted green vegetation fractions and NDFI values in the forests. Results showed that all forests have been continuously greening up since their establishment, and the average green vegetation cover of all forests increased from approximately 30% in 1988 to above 70% in 2018. With possible contributions from the invasion of exotic understory plant species, we credit community forestry programs for some of the green-up signals. Monitoring of forest vegetation dynamics is critical for evaluating the effectiveness of community forestry as well as developing sustainable forest management policies. Our research will provide positive feedbacks to local community forest committees and users. 
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