Remote Sens.2014, 6(8), 7110-7135; doi:10.3390/rs6087110 - published online 30 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: An accurate estimation of total biomass and its components is critical for understanding the carbon cycle in forest ecosystems. The objectives of this study were to explore the performances of forest canopy structure characterization from a single small-footprint Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) dataset using two different techniques focusing on (i) 3-D canopy structural information by discrete (XYZ) LiDAR metrics (DR-metrics), and (ii) the detailed geometric and radiometric information of the returned waveform by full-waveform LiDAR metrics (FW-metrics), and to evaluate the capacity of these metrics in predicting biomass and its components in subtropical forest ecosystems. This study was undertaken in a mixed subtropical forest in Yushan Mountain National Park, Jiangsu, China. LiDAR metrics derived from DR and FW LiDAR data were used alone, and in combination, in stepwise regression models to estimate total as well as above-ground, root, foliage, branch and trunk biomass. Overall, the results indicated that three sets of predictive models performed well across the different subtropical forest types (Adj-R2 = 0.42–0.93, excluding foliage biomass). Forest type-specific models (Adj-R2 = 0.18–0.93) were generally more accurate than the general model (Adj-R2 = 0.07–0.79) with the most accurate results obtained for coniferous stands (Adj-R2 = 0.50–0.93). In addition, LiDAR metrics related to vegetation heights were the strongest predictors of total biomass and its components. This research also illustrates the potential for the synergistic use of DR and FW LiDAR metrics to accurately assess biomass stocks in subtropical forests, which suggest significant potential in research and decision support in sustainable forest management, such as timber harvesting, biofuel characterization and fire hazard analyses.
Remote Sens.2014, 6(8), 7081-7109; doi:10.3390/rs6087081 - published online 29 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This study describes the novel use of a macroecological plant and forest structure model in conjunction with a Radiative Transfer (RT) model to better understand interactions between microwaves and forest canopies. Trends predicted by the RT model, resulting from interactions with mixed age, mono and multi species forests, are analysed in comparison to those predicted using a simplistic structure based scattering model. This model relates backscatter to scatterer cross sectional or volume specifications, dependent on the size. The Spatially Explicit Reiterative Algorithm (SERA) model is used to provide a widely varied tree size distribution while maintaining allometric consistency to produce a natural-like forest representation. The RT model is parameterised using structural information from SERA and microwave backscatter simulations are used to analyse the impact of changes to the forest stand. Results show that the slope of the saturation curve observed in the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) backscatter-biomass relationship is sensitive to thinning and therefore forest basal area. Due to similarities displayed between the results of the RT and simplistic model, it is determined that forest SAR backscatter behaviour at long microwave wavelengths may be described generally using equations related to total stem volume and basal area. The nature of these equations is such that they describe saturating behaviour of forests in the absence of attenuation in comparable fashion to the trends exhibited using the RT model. Both modelled backscatter trends predict a relationship to forest basal area from an early age when forest volume is increasing. When this is not the case, it is assumed to be a result of attenuation of the dominant stem-ground interaction due to the presence of excessive numbers of stems. This work shows how forest growth models can be successfully incorporated into existing independent scattering models and reveals, through the RT comparison with simplistic backscatter calculations, that saturation need not solely be a direct result of attenuation.
Remote Sens.2014, 6(8), 7050-7080; doi:10.3390/rs6087050 - published online 29 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: This study presents a computer vision application of the structure from motion (SfM) technique in three dimensional high resolution gully monitoring in southern Morocco. Due to impractical use of terrestrial Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) in difficult to access gully systems, the inexpensive SfM is a promising tool for analyzing and monitoring soil loss, gully head retreat and plunge pool development following heavy rain events. Objects with known dimensions were placed around the gully scenes for scaling purposes as a workaround for ground control point (GCP) placement. Additionally, the free scaling with objects was compared to terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) data in a field laboratory in Germany. Results of the latter showed discrepancies of 5.6% in volume difference for erosion and 1.7% for accumulation between SfM and TLS. In the Moroccan research area soil loss varied between 0.58 t in an 18.65 m2 narrowly stretched gully incision and 5.25 t for 17.45 m2 in a widely expanded headcut area following two heavy rain events. Different techniques of data preparation were applied and the advantages of SfM for soil erosion monitoring under complex surface conditions were demonstrated.
Remote Sens.2014, 6(8), 7026-7049; doi:10.3390/rs6087026 - published online 29 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: The estimation of evapotranspiration of blue water (ETb) from farmlands, due to irrigation, is crucial to improve water management, especially in regions where water resources are scarce. Large scale ETb was previously obtained, based on the differences between remote sensing derived actual ET and values simulated from the Global Land Data Assimilation System (GLDAS). In this paper, we improve on the previous approach by enhancing the classification scheme employed so that it represents regions with common hydrometeorological conditions. Bias between the two data sets for reference areas (non-irrigated croplands) were identified per class, and used to adjust the remote sensing products. Different classifiers were compared and evaluated based on the generated bias curves per class and their variability. The results in Europe show that the k-means classifier was better suited to identify the bias curves per class, capturing the dynamic range of these curves and minimizing their variability within each corresponding class. The method was applied in Africa and the classification and bias results were consistent with the findings in Europe. The ETb results were compared with existing literature and provided differences up to 50 mm/year in Europe, while the comparison in Africa was found to be highly influenced by the assigned cover type and the heterogeneity of the pixel. Although further research is needed to fully understand the ETb values found, this paper shows a more robust approach to classify and characterize the bias between the two sets of ET data.
Remote Sens.2014, 6(8), 7005-7025; doi:10.3390/rs6087005 - published online 29 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Remote-sensing techniques offer an efficient alternative for mapping mining environments and assessing the impacts of mining activities. Airborne multispectral data in the thermal region and hyperspectral data in the optical region, acquired with the Airborne Hyperspectral Scanner (AHS) sensor over the Sokolov lignite open-pit mines in the Czech Republic, were analyzed. The emissivity spectrum was calculated for each vegetation-free land pixel in the longwave infrared (LWIR)-region image using the surface-emitted radiation, and the reflectance spectrum was derived from the visible, near-infrared and shortwave-infrared (VNIR–SWIR)-region image using the solar radiation reflected from the surface, after applying atmospheric correction. The combination of calculated emissivity, with the ability to detect quartz, and SWIR reflectance spectra, detecting phyllosilicates and kaolinite in particular, enabled estimating the content of the dominant minerals in the exposed surface. The difference between the emissivity values at λ = 9.68 µm and 8.77 µm was found to be a useful index for estimating the relative amount of quartz in each land pixel in the LWIR image. The absorption depth at around 2.2 µm in the reflectance spectra was used to estimate the relative amount of kaolinite in each land pixel in the SWIR image. The resulting maps of the spatial distribution of quartz and kaolinite were found to be in accordance with the geological nature and origin of the exposed surfaces and demonstrated the benefit of using data from both thermal and optical spectral regions to map the abundance of the major minerals around the mines.
Remote Sens.2014, 6(8), 6988-7004; doi:10.3390/rs6086988 - published online 29 July 2014 Show/Hide Abstract
Abstract: Gap distributions in forests reflect the spatial impact of man-made tree harvesting or naturally-induced patterns of tree death being caused by windthrow, inter-tree competition, disease or senescence. Gap sizes can vary from large (>100 m2) to small (<10 m2), and they may have contrasting spatial patterns, such as being aggregated or regularly distributed. However, very small gaps cannot easily be recorded with conventional aerial or satellite images, which calls for new and cost-effective methodologies of forest monitoring. Here, we used an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and very high-resolution images to record the gaps in 10 temperate managed and unmanaged forests in two regions of Germany. All gaps were extracted for 1-ha study plots and subsequently analyzed with spatially-explicit statistics, such as the conventional pair correlation function (PCF), the polygon-based PCF and the mark correlation function. Gap-size frequency was dominated by small gaps of an area <5 m2, which were particularly frequent in unmanaged forests. We found that gap distances showed a variety of patterns. However, the polygon-based PCF was a better descriptor of patterns than the conventional PCF, because it showed randomness or aggregation for cases when the conventional PCF showed small-scale regularity; albeit, the latter was only a mathematical artifact. The mark correlation function revealed that gap areas were in half of the cases negatively correlated and in the other half independent. Negative size correlations may likely be the result of single-tree harvesting or of repeated gap formation, which both lead to nearby small gaps. Here, we emphasize the usefulness of UAV to record forest gaps of a very small size. These small gaps may originate from repeated gap-creating disturbances, and their spatial patterns should be monitored with spatially-explicit statistics at recurring intervals in order to further insights into forest dynamics.