Quantification of forest structure is important for developing a better understanding of how forest ecosystems function. Additionally, estimation of forest structural attributes, such as aboveground biomass (AGBM), is an important step in identifying the amount of carbon in terrestrial vegetation pools and is central to global carbon cycle studies. Although current remote sensing techniques recover such tropical forest structure poorly, new large-footprint lidar instruments show great promise. As part of a prelaunch validation plan for the Vegetation Canopy Lidar (VCL) mission, the Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS), a large-footprint airborne scanning lidar, was flown over the La Selva Biological Station, a tropical wet forest site in Costa Rica. The primary objective of this study was to test the ability of large-footprint lidar instruments to recover forest structural characteristics across a spectrum of land cover types from pasture to secondary and primary tropical forests. LVIS metrics were able to predict field-derived quadratic mean stem diameter (QMSD), basal area, and AGBM with R 2 values of up to .93, .72, and .93, respectively. These relationships were significant and nonasymptotic through the entire range of conditions sampled at the La Selva. Our results confirm the ability of large-footprint lidar instruments to estimate important structural attributes, including biomass in dense tropical forests, and when taken along with similar results from studies in temperate forests, strongly validate the VCL mission framework.
Remote Sensing of Environment – Elsevier
Published: Feb 1, 2002
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