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Radar estimates of aboveground biomass in boreal forests of interior Alaska

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4 Author(s)
E. Rignot ; Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Technol., Pasadena, CA, USA ; J. Way ; C. Williams ; L. Viereck

Airborne SAR data gathered by the NASA/JPL three-frequency, polarimetric, radar system in winter, spring, and summer over the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest, near Fairbanks, AK, are compared to estimates of whole-tree aboveground dry biomass from 21 forest stands and two clear-cuts. While C-band radar backscatter shows little sensitivity to biomass, L- and P-band radar backscatter increase by more than 6 dB when biomass increases from 5 to 200 tons/ha. Using second-order polynomial regressions, biomass values are predicted from the radar at L- and P-band and compared to actual biomass values. At P-band HV-polarization, the error in predicted biomass is about 30% of the actual biomass. When HV-, HH-, and VV-polarization are used together in the regression, the error in predicted biomass is about 20%. Errors obtained using L-band data are a few percents larger. These errors are caused by uncertainties in actual stand biomass estimates, significant inner-stand spatial variations in biomass, unusual conditions of forest stands following natural disturbances, along with interactions of the radar signals with a complex three-dimensional structure of the canopy. Multiple incidence angle data reveal that the incidence angle θ i of the radar illumination is also a factor influencing the retrieval of biomass, even at HV-polarization, when θi>50° or θi<25°. Finally, the radar response of the forest-and thereby the regression curves for biomass retrieval-are dependent on the seasonal and environmental conditions

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing  (Volume:32 ,  Issue: 5 )