Forest Canopy Cover and Height from MISR in Topographically Complex Southwestern US Landscapes Assessed with High Quality Reference Data

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This study addresses the retrieval of spatially contiguous canopy cover and height estimates in southwestern US forests via inversion of a geometric-optical (GO) model against surface bidirectional reflectance factor (BRF) estimates from the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR). Model inversion can provide such maps if good estimates of the background bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF) are available. The study area is in the Sierra National Forest in the Sierra Nevada of California. Tree number density, mean crown radius, and fractional cover reference estimates were obtained via analysis of QuickBird 0.6 m spatial resolution panchromatic imagery using the CANopy Analysis with Panchromatic Imagery (CANAPI) algorithm, while RH50, RH75 and RH100 (50%, 75%, and 100% energy return) height data were obtained from the NASA Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS), a full waveform light detection and ranging (lidar) instrument. These canopy parameters were used to drive a modified version of the simple GO model (SGM), accurately reproducing patterns of MISR 672 nm band surface reflectance (mean RMSE = 0.011, mean R 2 = 0.82, N = 1048). Cover and height maps were obtained through model inversion against MISR 672 nm reflectance estimates on a 250 m grid. The free parameters were tree number density and mean crown radius. RMSE values with respect to reference data for the cover and height retrievals were 0.05 and 6.65 m, respectively, with R 2 of 0.54 and 0.49. MISR can thus provide maps of forest cover and height in areas of topographic variation although refinements are required to improve retrieval precision.



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