Limitations of high resolution satellite stereo imagery for estimating canopy height in Australian tropical savannas

Goldbergs, Grigorijs, Maier, Stefan W., Levick, Shaun R., and Edwards, Andrew (2019) Limitations of high resolution satellite stereo imagery for estimating canopy height in Australian tropical savannas. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 75. pp. 83-95.

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Obtaining reliable measures of tree canopy height across large areas is a central element of forest inventory and carbon accounting. Recent years have seen an increased emphasis on the use of active sensors like Radar and airborne LiDAR (light detection and scanning) systems to estimate various 3D characteristics of canopy and crown structure that can be used as predictors of biomass. However, airborne LiDAR data are expensive to acquire, and not often readily available across large remote landscapes. In this study, we evaluated the potential of stereo imagery from commercially available Very High Resolution (VHR) satellites as an alternative for estimating canopy height variables in Australian tropical savannas, using a semi-global dense matching (SGM) image-based technique. We assessed and compared the completeness and vertical accuracy of extracted canopy height models (CHMs) from GeoEye 1 and WorldView 1 VHR satellite stereo pairs and summarised the factors influencing image matching effectiveness and quality.

Our results showed that stereo dense matching using the SGM technique severely underestimates tree presence and canopy height. The highest tree detection rates were achieved by using the near-infrared (NIR) band of GEl (8-9%). WV1-GE1 cross-satellite (mixed) models did not improve the quality of extracted canopy heights. We consider these poor detection rates and height retrievals to result from: i) the clumping crown structure of the dominant Eucalyptus spp.; ii) their vertically oriented leaves (affecting the bidirectional reflectance distribution function); iii) image band radiometry and iv) wind induced crown movement affecting stereo-pair point matching. Our detailed analyses suggest that current commercially available VHR satellite data (0.5 m resolution) are not well suited to estimating canopy height variables, and therefore above ground biomass (AGB), in Eucalyptus dominated north Australian tropical savanna woodlands.

Item ID: 56769
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-826X
Keywords: Stereo, Satellite, Canopy height, Savanna
Copyright Information: © 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Funders: Charles Darwin University, Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research, Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre
Date Deposited: 02 Jan 2019 07:52
FoR Codes: 40 ENGINEERING > 4013 Geomatic engineering > 401304 Photogrammetry and remote sensing @ 50%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960505 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Forest and Woodlands Environments @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960501 Ecosystem Assessment and Management at Regional or Larger Scales @ 50%
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