Relating SAR image texture to the biomass of regenerating tropical forests

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Abstract:

An accurate global carbon budget requires information on terrestrial carbon sink strength. Regenerating tropical forests are known to be important terrestrial carbon sinks but information on their location, extent and biomass (from which carbon content can be estimated) is incomplete. The use of remotely sensed data in optical wavelengths has been of limited use due to both the weak relationship between optical radiation and forest biomass and near‐constant cloud cover in the tropics. L‐band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) backscatter, however, is related positively to biomass (but only up to an asymptote of around 40–90 T ha −1 ) and can be obtained independently of cloud cover. Both canopy structure and biomass change over time as pioneer species are replaced by early and late regenerating species. These structural changes are related to an increase in (i) tree height, (ii) tree species richness and (iii) canopy thickness and influence the roughness of the canopy surface and consequently SAR image texture. Therefore, we investigated the degree to which textural information could be used to increase the correlation between image tone (backscatter) and biomass. Field data were used to estimate the biomass of 37 regenerating forests plots in Brazilian Amazonia. Texture measures derived from local statistics, the grey level co‐occurrence matrix (GLCM) and the variogram were evaluated using simulated images on the basis of their ability to identify significant differences in image texture independently of image contrast. The selected texture measures were applied to L‐band JERS‐1 (Japanese Earth Resources Satellite) SAR images and the correlation between backscatter and biomass was determined for regenerating tropical forests. A strong correlation was found for the texture measures and biomass. The r a 2 (adjusted coefficient of determination), measuring the correlation between backscatter and biomass, increased from 0.74 to 0.82 with the addition of GLCM‐derived contrast. The addition of image texture (GLCM‐derived contrast) to image tone (backscatter) potentially increases the accuracy with which JERS‐1 SAR data can be used to estimate biomass in tropical forests.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01431160500239107

Affiliations: 1: INPE, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, Av. dos Astronautas 1758, 12227‐010, São José dos Campos, Brazil 2: School of Geography, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK

Publication date: November 10, 2005

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