Vegetation height estimates for a mixed temperate forest using satellite laser altimetry
Data from the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) aboard the Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) offer an unprecedented opportunity for canopy height retrieval at a regional to global scale. The data also provide useful information for forest stand level assessment at coincident locations. In this study height indices from light detection and ranging (LiDAR) waveforms were explored as a means of extracting canopy height; these were examined with reference to a mixed temperate forest in Gloucestershire, UK, containing planted stands with a mean age of 51 years and mean maximum height of 26.6 m. A method based on using a terrain index (TI; maximum minus minimum elevations from a 7?7 subset 10?m resolution digital terrain model (DTM)) to adjust the waveform extent (WE; signal begin minus signal end) produced an R 2 value of 0.89 when regressed against field measurements of maximum canopy height at footprint locations (field height = 0.91(WE?TI)+4.86; root mean squared error (RMSE) = 2.99 m, coefficient significance p<0.001, intercept significance p>0.01). Multiple regression performed on both WE and TI with field measurements produced an R 2 of 0.90 and an RMSE of 2.86 m (field height = 1.0208WE?0.7310TI; coefficient significance p<0.001, intercept not significant). Maximum canopy height estimates using an automated approach to ground return identification based on iterative fitting of Gaussian peaks (GP1_2MAXAMP) to the waveform explained 74% of variance when compared to field measurements (field height = 1.05(GP1_2MAXAMP); RMSE = 4.53 m, coefficient significance p<0.001, intercept not significant). The ability of satellite LiDAR to retrieve data for such a complex and diverse area further indicates the potential of this technique for both carbon accounting and forest management.