National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Date of this Version



Remote Sensing of Environment 115 (2011) 2906–2916; doi:10.1016/j.rse.2011.03.021


The use of lidar and radar instruments to measure forest structure attributes such as height and biomass at global scales is being considered for a future Earth Observation satellite mission, DESDynI (Deformation, Ecosystem Structure, and Dynamics of Ice). Large footprint lidar makes a direct measurement of the heights of scatterers in the illuminated footprint and can yield accurate information about the vertical profile of the canopy within lidar footprint samples. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) is known to sense the canopy volume, especially at longer wavelengths and provides image data. Methods for biomass mapping by a combination of lidar sampling and radar mapping need to be developed.

In this study, several issues in this respect were investigated using aircraft borne lidar and SAR data in Howland, Maine, USA. The stepwise regression selected the height indices rh50 and rh75 of the Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS) data for predicting field measured biomass with a R2 of 0.71 and RMSE of 31.33 Mg/ha. The above-ground biomass map generated from this regression model was considered to represent the true biomass of the area and was used as a reference map since no better biomassmap exists for the area. Random samples were taken from the biomass map and the correlation between the sampled biomass and co-located SAR signature was studied. The best models were used to extend the biomass from lidar samples into all forested areas in the study area, which mimics a procedure that could be used for the future DESDYnI mission. It was found that depending on the data types used (quad-pol or dual-pol) the SAR data can predict the lidar biomass samples with R2 of 0.63–0.71, RMSE of 32.0–28.2 Mg/ha up to biomass levels of 200–250 Mg/ha. The mean biomass of the study area calculated from the biomass maps generated by lidar–SAR synergy was within 10% of the reference biomass map derived from LVIS data. The results from this study are preliminary, but do show the potential of the combined use of lidar samples and radar imagery for forest biomass mapping. Various issues regarding lidar/radar data synergies for biomass mapping are discussed in the paper.