Foliage profile is a key biophysical parameter for forests. Airborne Light Detection and Ranging is an effective tool for vegetation parameter retrieval. Data acquisition conditions influence the estimation of biophysical parameters. To acquire accurate foliage profiles at the lowest cost, we used simulations to explore the effects of data acquisition conditions on forest foliage profile retrieval. First, a 3-D forest scene and the airborne small-footprint full-waveform LiDAR data were simulated by the DART model. Second, the foliage profile was estimated from LiDAR data based on a Geometric Optical and Radiative Transfer model. Lastly, the effects of the airborne LiDAR scanning angle, flying altitude, and pulse density on foliage profile retrieval were explored. The results indicated that the scanning angle was an important factor in the foliage profile retrieval, and the optimal scanning angle was 20°. The optimal scanning angle was independent of flying altitude and pulse density, and combinations of multiple scanning angles could improve the accuracy of the foliage profile estimation. The flying altitude and pulse density had little influence on foliage profile retrieval at plot level and could be ignored. In general, our study provides reliable information for selecting the optimal instrument operational parameters to acquire more accurate foliage profiles and minimize data acquisition costs.
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