Assessment of a Power Law Relationship between P-Band SAR Backscatter and Aboveground Biomass and Its Implications for BIOMASS Mission Performance

Michael Schlund*, Klaus Scipal, Shaun Quegan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


This paper presents an analysis of a logarithmic relationship between P-band cross-polarized backscatter from synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and aboveground biomass (AGB) across different forest types based on multiple airborne datasets. It is found that the logarithmic function provides a statistically significant fit to the observed relationship between HV backscatter and AGB. While the coefficient of determination varies between datasets, the slopes, and intercepts of many of the models are not significantly different, especially when similar AGB ranges are assessed. Pooled boreal and pooled tropical data have slopes that are not significantly different, but they have different intercepts. Using the power law formulation of the logarithmic relation allows estimation of both the equivalent number of looks (ENL) needed to retrieve AGB with a given uncertainty and the sensitivity of the AGB inversion. The campaign data indicates that boreal forests require a larger ENL than tropical forests to achieve a specified relative accuracy. The ENL can be increased by multichannel filtering, but ascending and descending images will need to be combined to meet the performance requirements of the BIOMASS mission. The analysis also indicates that the relative change in AGB associated with a given backscatter change depends only on the magnitude of the change and the exponent of the power law, and further implies that to achieve a relative AGB accuracy of 20% or better, residual errors from radiometric distortions produced by the system and environmental effects must not exceed 0.43 dB in tropical and 0.39 dB in boreal forests.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8462721
Pages (from-to)3538-3547
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Journal of selected topics in applied earth observations and remote sensing
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Aboveground biomass (AGB) retrieval
  • BIOMASS mission
  • Forestry
  • P-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR)
  • ITC-CV


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