Modeling forest aboveground biomass and volume using airborne LiDAR metrics and forest inventory and analysis data in the pacific northwest

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The United States Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program provides a diverse selection of data used to assess the status of the nation's forests using sample locations dispersed throughout the country. Airborne laser scanning (ALS) systems are capable of producing accurate measurements of individual tree dimensions and also possess the ability to characterize forest structure in three dimensions. This study investigates the potential of discrete return ALS data for modeling forest aboveground biomass (AGBM) and gross volume (gV) at FIA plot locations in the Malheur National Forest, eastern Oregon utilizing three analysis levels: (1) individual subplot (r = 7.32 m); (2) plot, comprising four clustered subplots; and (3) hectare plot (r = 56.42 m). A methodology for the creation of three point cloud-based airborne LiDAR metric sets is presented. Models for estimating AGBM and gV based on LiDAR-derived height metrics were built and validated utilizing FIA estimates of AGBM and gV derived using regional allometric equations. Simple linear regression models based on the plot-level analysis out performed subplot-level and hectare-level models, producing R2 values of 0.83 and 0.81 for AGBM and gV, utilizing mean height and the 90th height percentile as predictors, respectively. Similar results were found for multiple regression models, where plot-level analysis produced models with R2 values of 0.87 and 0.88 for AGBM and gV, utilizing multiple height percentile metrics as predictor variables. Results suggest that the current FIA plot design can be used with dense airborne LiDAR data to produce area-based estimates of AGBM and gV, and that the increased spatial scale of hectare plots may be inappropriate for modeling AGBM of gV unless exhaustive tree tallies are available. Overall, this study demonstrates that ALS data can be used to create models that describe the AGBM and gV of Pacific Northwest FIA plots and highlights the potential of estimates derived from ALS data to augment current FIA data collection procedures by providing a temporary intermediate estimation of AGBM and gV for plots with outdated field measurements.




Sheridan, R. D., Popescu, S. C., Gatziolis, D., Morgan, C. L. S., & Ku, N. W. (2015). Modeling forest aboveground biomass and volume using airborne LiDAR metrics and forest inventory and analysis data in the pacific northwest. Remote Sensing, 7(1), 229–255.

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