Biomass prediction in tropical forests : the canopy grain approach

Abstract : The challenging task of biomass prediction in dense and heterogeneous tropical forest requires a multi-parameter and multi-scale characterization of forest canopies. Completely different forest structures may indeed present similar above ground biomass (AGB) values. This is probably one of the reasons explaining why tropical AGB still resists accurate mapping through remote sensing techniques. There is a clear need to combine optical and radar remote sensing to benefit from their complementary responses to forest characteristics. Radar and Lidar signals are rightly considered to provide adequate measurements of forest structure because of their capability of penetrating and interacting with all the vegetation strata. However, signal saturation at the lowest radar frequencies is observed at the midlevel of biomass range in tropical forests (Mougin et al. 1999; Imhoff, 1995). Polarimetric Interferometric (PolInsar) data could improve the inversion algorithm by injecting forest interferometric height into the inversion of P-band HV polarization signal. Within this framework, the TROPISAR mission, supported by the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) for the preparation of the European Space Agency (ESA) BIOMASS program is illustrative of both the importance of interdisciplinary research associating forest ecologists and physicists and the importance of combined measurements of forest properties. Lidar data is a useful technique to characterize the vertical profile of the vegetation cover (e.g. Zhao et al. 2009) which in combination with radar (Englhart et al. 2011) or optical (e.g. Baccini et al. 2008; Asner et al. 2011) and field plot data may allow vegetation carbon stocks to be mapped over large areas of tropical forest at different resolution scales ranging from 1 hectare to 1 km². However, small-footprint Lidar data are not yet accessible over sufficient extents and with sufficient revisiting time because its operational use for tropical studies remains expensive. At the opposite, very-high (VHR) resolution imagery, i.e. approximately 1-m resolution, provided by recent satellite like Geoeye, Ikonos, Orbview or Quickbird as well as the forthcoming Pleiades becomes widely available at affordable costs, or even for free in certain regions of the world through Google Earth®. Compared to coarser resolution imagery with pixel size greater than 4 meters, VHR imagery greatly improves thematic information on forest canopies. Indeed, the contrast between sunlit and shadowed trees crowns as visible on such images (Fig. 1) is potentially informative on the structure of the forest canopy while new promising methods now exist for analyzing these fine scale satellite observations (e.g. Bruniquel-Pinel & Gastellu-Etchegorry, 1998; Malhi & Roman-Cuesta, 2008; Rich et al. 2010). Besides, we believe that there is also a great potential in similarly using historical series of digitized aerial photographs that proved to be useful in the past for mapping large extents of unexplored forest (Le Touzey, 1968; Richards, 1996) for quantifying AGB changes through time. This book chapter presents the advancement of a research program undertaken by our team for estimating high biomass mangrove and terra firme forests of Amazonia using canopy grain from VHR images (Couteron et al. 2005; Proisy et al. 2007; Barbier et al., 2010; 2011). We present in a first section, the canopy grain notion and the fundamentals of the Fourier-based Textural Ordination (FOTO) method we developed. We then introduce a dual experimental-theoretical approach implemented to understand how canopy structure modifies the reflectance signal and produces a given texture. We discuss, for example, the influence of varying sun-view acquisition conditions on canopy grain characteristics. A second section assesses the potential and limits of the canopy grain approach to predict forest stand structure and more specifically above ground biomass. Perspectives for a better understanding of canopy grain-AGB relationships conclude this work.
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Chapitre d'ouvrage
Remote sensing of biomass : principles and applications, Intech, pp.1-18, 2011
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Christophe Proisy, Nicolas Barbier, Michael Guéroult, Raphaël Pélissier, Jean-Philippe Gastellu-Etchegorry, et al.. Biomass prediction in tropical forests : the canopy grain approach. Remote sensing of biomass : principles and applications, Intech, pp.1-18, 2011. 〈ird-00658600〉

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