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Remote Sensing of Leaf Area Index from LiDAR Height Percentile Metrics and Comparison with MODIS Product in a Selectively Logged Tropical Forest Area in Eastern Amazonia

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journal contribution
posted on 24.05.2021, 20:48 by Yonghua Qu, Ahmed Shaker, Carlos Alberto Silva, Carine Klauberg, Ekena Rangel Pinagé
Leaf area index (LAI) is an important parameter to describe the capacity of forests to intercept light and thus affects the microclimate and photosynthetic capacity of canopies. In general, tropical forests have a higher leaf area index and it is a challenge to estimate LAI in a forest with a very dense canopy. In this study, it is assumed that the traditional Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)-derived fractional vegetation cover (fCover) has weak relationship with leaf area index in a dense forest. We propose a partial least squares (PLS) regression model using the height percentile metrics derived from airborne LiDAR data to estimate the LAI of a dense forest. Ground inventory and airborne LiDAR data collected in a selectively logged tropical forest area in Eastern Amazonia are used to map LAI from the plot level to the landscape scale. The results indicate that the fCover, derived from the first return or the last return, has no significant correlations with the ground-based LAI. The PLS model evaluated by the leave-one-out validation shows that the estimated LAI is significantly correlated with the ground-based LAI with an R2 of 0.58 and a root mean square error (RMSE) of 1.13. A data comparison indicates that the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) LAI underestimates the landscape-level LAI by about 22%. The MODIS quality control data show that in the selected tile, the cloud state is not the primary factor affecting the MODIS LAI performance; rather, the LAI from the main radiative transfer (RT) algorithm contributes much to the underestimation of the LAI in the tropical forest. In addition, the results show that the LiDAR-based LAI has a better response to the logging activities than the MODIS-based LAI, and that the leaf area reduction caused by logging is about 13%. In contrast, the MODIS-based LAI exhibits no apparent spatial correlation with the LiDAR-based LAI. It is suggested that the main algorithm of MODIS should be improved with regard to tropical forests. The significance of this study is the proposal of a framework to produce ground-based LAI using forest inventory data and determine the plot-level LAI at the airborne and satellite scale using LiDAR data.