Airborne laser scanner (ALS) data are used to map a range of forest inventory attributes at operational scales. However, when wall-to-wall ALS coverage is cost prohibitive or logistically challenging, alternative approaches are needed for forest mapping. We evaluated an indirect approach for extending ALS-based maps of forest attributes using medium resolution satellite and environmental data. First, we developed ALS-based models and predicted a suite of forest attributes for a 950 km2
study area covered by wall-to-wall ALS data. Then, we used samples extracted from the ALS-based predictions to model and map these attributes with satellite and environmental data for an extended 5600 km2
area with similar forest and ecological conditions. All attributes were predicted well with the ALS data (R2
≥ 0.83; RMSD% < 26). The satellite and environmental models developed using the ALS-based predictions resulted in increased correspondence between observed and predicted values by 13–49% and decreased prediction errors by 8–28% compared with models developed directly with the ground plots. Improvements were observed for both multiple regression and random forest models, and for the suite of forest attributes assessed. We concluded that the use of ALS-based predictions in this study improved the estimation of forest attributes beyond an approach linking ground plots directly to the satellite and environmental data.
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