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Evaluating lidar point densities for effective estimation of aboveground biomass

March 23, 2016

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) was recently established to provide airborne lidar data coverage on a national scale. As part of a broader research effort of the USGS to develop an effective remote sensing-based methodology for the creation of an operational biomass Essential Climate Variable (Biomass ECV) data product, we evaluated the performance of airborne lidar data at various pulse densities against Landsat 8 satellite imagery in estimating above ground biomass for forests and woodlands in a study area in east-central Arizona, U.S. High point density airborne lidar data, were randomly sampled to produce five lidar datasets with reduced densities ranging from 0.5 to 8 point(s)/m2, corresponding to the point density range of 3DEP to provide national lidar coverage over time. Lidar-derived aboveground biomass estimate errors showed an overall decreasing trend as lidar point density increased from 0.5 to 8 points/m2. Landsat 8-based aboveground biomass estimates produced errors larger than the lowest lidar point density of 0.5 point/m2, and therefore Landsat 8 observations alone were ineffective relative to airborne lidar for generating a Biomass ECV product, at least for the forest and woodland vegetation types of the Southwestern U.S. While a national Biomass ECV product with optimal accuracy could potentially be achieved with 3DEP data at 8 points/m2, our results indicate that even lower density lidar data could be sufficient to provide a national Biomass ECV product with accuracies significantly higher than that from Landsat observations alone.

Publication Year 2016
Title Evaluating lidar point densities for effective estimation of aboveground biomass
Authors Zhuoting Wu, Dennis G. Dye, Jason M. Stoker, John M. Vogel, Miguel G. Velasco, Barry R. Middleton
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title International Journal of Advanced Remote Sensing and GIS
Index ID 70169147
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Geographic Science Center