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Multiscale divergence between Landsat- and lidar-based biomass mapping is related to regional variation in canopy cover and composition

Bell, David M., Gregory, Matthew J., Kane, Van, Kane, Jonathan, Kennedy, Robert E., Roberts, Heather M., Yang, Zhiqiang
Carbon balance and management 2018 v.13 no.1 pp. 15
Landsat, biomass, carbon sinks, ecoregions, equations, forest canopy, forest inventory, forests, hardwood, landscapes, lidar, monitoring, prediction, remote sensing, species diversity
BACKGROUND: Satellite-based aboveground forest biomass maps commonly form the basis of forest biomass and carbon stock mapping and monitoring, but biomass maps likely vary in performance by region and as a function of spatial scale of aggregation. Assessing such variability is not possible with spatially-sparse vegetation plot networks. In the current study, our objective was to determine whether high-resolution lidar-based and moderate-resolution Landsat-base aboveground live forest biomass maps converged on similar predictions at stand- to landscape-levels (10 s to 100 s ha) and whether such differences depended on biophysical setting. Specifically, we examined deviations between lidar- and Landsat-based biomass mapping methods across scales and ecoregions using a measure of error (normalized root mean square deviation), a measure of the unsystematic deviations, or noise (Pearson correlation coefficient), and two measures related to systematic deviations, or biases (intercept and slope of a regression between the two sets of predictions). RESULTS: Compared to forest inventory data (0.81-ha aggregate-level), lidar and Landsat-based mean biomass predictions exhibited similar performance, though lidar predictions exhibited less normalized root mean square deviation than Landsat when compared with the reference plot data. Across aggregate-levels, the intercepts and slopes of regression equations describing the relationships between lidar- and Landsat-based biomass predictions stabilized (i.e., little additional change with increasing area of aggregates) at aggregate-levels between 10 and 100 ha, suggesting a consistent relationship between the two maps at landscape-scales. Differences between lidar- and Landsat-based biomass maps varied as a function of forest canopy heterogeneity and composition, with systematic deviations (regression intercepts) increasing with mean canopy cover and hardwood proportion within forests and correlations decreasing with hardwood proportion. CONCLUSIONS: Deviations between lidar- and Landsat-based maps indicated that satellite-based approaches may represent general gradients in forest biomass. Ecoregion impacted deviations between lidar and Landsat biomass maps, highlighting the importance of biophysical setting in determining biomass map performance across aggregate scales. Therefore, regardless of the source of remote sensing (e.g., Landsat vs. lidar), factors affecting the measurement and prediction of forest biomass, such as species composition, need to be taken into account whether one is estimating biomass at the plot, stand, or landscape scale.