Forest canopy height and carbon estimation at Monks Wood National Nature Reserve, UK, using dual-wavelength SAR interferometry

Balzter, H.; Rowland, C. S. ORCID:; Saich, P.. 2007 Forest canopy height and carbon estimation at Monks Wood National Nature Reserve, UK, using dual-wavelength SAR interferometry. Remote Sensing of Environment, 108 (3). 224-239.

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Forest canopy height is a critical parameter in better quantifying the terrestrial carbon cycle. It can be used to estimate aboveground biomass and carbon pools stored in the vegetation, and predict timber yield for forest management. Polarimetric SAR interferometry (PolInSAR) uses polarimetric separation of scattering phase centers derived from interferometry to estimate canopy height. A limitation of PolInSAR is that it relies on sufficient scattering phase center separation at each pixel to be able to derive accurate forest canopy height estimates. The effect of wavelength-dependent penetration depth into the canopy is known to be strong, and could potentially lead to a better height separation than relying on polarization combinations at one wavelength alone. Here we present a new method for canopy height mapping using dual-wavelength SAR interferometry (InSAR) at X- and L-band. The method is based on the scattering phase center separation at different wavelengths. It involves the generation of a smoothed interpolated terrain elevation model underneath the forest canopy from repeat-pass L-band InSAR data. The terrain model is then used to remove the terrain component from the single-pass X-band interferometric surface height to estimate forest canopy height. The ability of L-band to map terrain height under vegetation relies on sufficient spatial heterogeneity of the density of scattering elements that scatter L-band electromagnetic waves within each resolution cell. The method is demonstrated with airborne X-band VV polarized single-pass and L-band HH polarized repeat-pass SAR interferometry using data acquired by the E-SAR sensor over Monks Wood National Nature Reserve, UK. This is one of the first radar studies of a semi-natural deciduous woodland that exhibits considerable spatial heterogeneity of vegetation type and density. The canopy height model is validated using airborne imaging LIDAR data acquired by the Environment Agency. The rmse of the LIDAR canopy height estimates compared to theodolite data is 2.15 m (relative error 17.6%). The rmse of the dual-wavelength InSAR-derived canopy height model compared to LIDAR is 3.49 m (relative error 28.5%). From the canopy height maps carbon pools are estimated using allometric equations. The results are compared to a field survey of carbon pools and rmse values are presented. The dual-wavelength InSAR method could potentially be delivered from a spaceborne constellation similar to the TerraSAR system.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biogeochemistry > CC01B Land-surface Feedbacks in the Climate System > CC01.5 Datasets for land-surface science
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Harding (to July 2011)
ISSN: 0034-4257
Additional Keywords: Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Interferometry, Tree height, Canopy height, Carbon, LIDAR
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Data and Information
Earth Sciences
Date made live: 02 Jan 2008 12:39 +0 (UTC)

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