Comparing Accuracy of Airborne Laser Scanning and TerraSAR-X Radar Images in the Estimation of Plot-Level Forest Variables
Received: 7 December 2009 / Revised: 13 January 2010 / Accepted: 22 January 2010 / Published: 28 January 2010
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In this study we compared the accuracy of low-pulse airborne laser scanning (ALS) data, multi-temporal high-resolution noninterferometric TerraSAR-X radar data and a combined feature set derived from these data in the estimation of forest variables at plot level. The TerraSAR-X data set
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In this study we compared the accuracy of low-pulse airborne laser scanning (ALS) data, multi-temporal high-resolution noninterferometric TerraSAR-X radar data and a combined feature set derived from these data in the estimation of forest variables at plot level. The TerraSAR-X data set consisted of seven dual-polarized (HH/HV or VH/VV) Stripmap mode images from all seasons of the year. We were especially interested in distinguishing between the tree species. The dependent variables estimated included mean volume, basal area, mean height, mean diameter and tree species-specific mean volumes. Selection of best possible feature set was based on a genetic algorithm (GA). The nonparametric k
-nearest neighbour (k
-NN) algorithm was applied to the estimation. The research material consisted of 124 circular plots measured at tree level and located in the vicinity of Espoo, Finland. There are large variations in the elevation and forest structure in the study area, making it demanding for image interpretation. The best feature set contained 12 features, nine of them originating from the ALS data and three from the TerraSAR-X data. The relative RMSEs for the best performing feature set were 34.7% (mean volume), 28.1% (basal area), 14.3% (mean height), 21.4% (mean diameter), 99.9% (mean volume of Scots pine), 61.6% (mean volume of Norway spruce) and 91.6% (mean volume of deciduous tree species). The combined feature set outperformed an ALS-based feature set marginally; in fact, the latter was better in the case of species-specific volumes. Features from TerraSAR-X alone performed poorly. However, due to favorable temporal resolution, satellite-borne radar imaging is a promising data source for updating large-area forest inventories based on low-pulse ALS.