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Using Airborne Light Detection and Ranging as a Sampling Tool for Estimating Forest Biomass Resources in the Upper Tanana Valley of Interior Alaska

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Airborne laser scanning, collected in a sampling mode, has the potential to be a valuable tool for estimating the biomass resources available to support bioenergy production in rural communities of interior Alaska. In this study, we present a methodology for estimating forest biomass over a 201,226-ha area (of which 163,913 ha are forested) in the upper Tanana valley of interior Alaska using a combination of 79 field plots and high-density airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) collected in a sampling mode along 27 single strips (swaths) spaced approximately 2.5 km apart. A model-based approach to estimating total aboveground biomass for the area is presented. Although a design-based sampling approach (based on a probability sample of field plots) would allow for stronger inference, a model-based approach is justified when the cost of obtaining a probability sample is prohibitive. Using a simulation-based approach, the proportion of the variability associated with sampling error and modeling error was assessed. Results indicate that LiDAR sampling can be used to obtain estimates of total biomass with an acceptable level of precision (8.1 ± 0.7 [8%] teragrams [total ± SD]), with sampling error accounting for 58% of the SD of the bootstrap distribution. In addition, we investigated the influence of plot location (i.e., GPS) error, plot size, and field-measured diameter threshold on the variability of the total biomass estimate. We found that using a larger plot (1/30 ha versus 1/59 ha) and a lower diameter threshold (7.6 versus 12.5 cm) significantly reduced the SD of the bootstrap distribution (by approximately 20%), whereas larger plot location error (over a range from 0 to 20 m root mean square error) steadily increased variability at both plot sizes.
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Keywords: LiDAR; biomass; forest inventory; sampling

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-10-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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