Impact of modeling abstractions when estimating leaf mass per area and equivalent water thickness over sparse forests using a hybrid method

Thomas Miraglio*, M. Huesca, Jean Philippe Gastellu-Etchegorry, Crystal Schaaf, Karine R.M. Adeline, Susan L. Ustin, Xavier Briottet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


Equivalent water thickness (EWT) and leaf mass per area (LMA) are important indicators of plant processes, such as photosynthetic and potential growth rates and health status, and are also important variables for fire risk assessment. Retrieving these traits through remote sensing is challenging and often requires calibration with in situ measurements to provide acceptable results. However, calibration data cannot be expected to be available at the operational level when estimating EWT and LMA over large regions. In this study, we assessed the ability of a hybrid retrieval method, consisting of training a random forest regressor (RFR) over the outputs of the discrete anisotropic radiative transfer (DART) model, to yield accurate EWT and LMA estimates depending on the scene modeling within DART and the spectral interval considered. We show that canopy abstractions mostly affect crown reflectance over the 0.75–1.3 µm range. It was observed that excluding these wavelengths when training the RFR resulted in the abstraction level having no effect on the subsequent LMA estimates (RMSE of 0.0019 g/cm2 for both the detailed and abstract models), and EWT estimates were not affected by the level of abstraction. Over AVIRIS-Next Generation images, we showed that the hybrid method trained with a simplified scene obtained accuracies (RMSE of 0.0029 and 0.0028 g/cm2 for LMA and EWT) consistent with what had been obtained from the test dataset of the calibration phase (RMSE of 0.0031 and 0.0032 g/cm2 for LMA and EWT), and the result yielded spatially coherent maps. The results demonstrate that, provided an appropriate spectral domain is used, the uncertainties inherent to the abstract modeling of tree crowns within an RTM do not significantly affect EWT and LMA accuracy estimates when tree crowns can be identified in the images.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3235
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalRemote sensing
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2021


  • DART
  • EWT
  • Hyperspectral
  • Lidar
  • LMA
  • Open canopy
  • Random forest


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