Importance of bistatic SAR features from TanDEM-X for forest mapping and monitoring

M. Schlund, F. von Poncet, D.H. Hoekman, S. Kuntz, C. Schmullius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Deforestation and forest degradation are one of the important sources for human induced carbon dioxide emissions and their rates are highest in tropical forests. For man-kind, it is of great importance to track land-use conversions like deforestation, e.g. for sustainable forest management and land use planning, for carbon balancing and to support the implementation of international initiatives like REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation
and Degradation). SAR (synthetic aperture radar) sensors are suitable to reliably and frequently monitor tropical forests due to their weather independence. The TanDEM-X mission (which is mainly aimed to create a unique global high resolution digital elevation model) currently operates two X-band SAR satellites, acquiring interferometric SAR data for the Earth's entire land surface multiple times. The operational mission provides interferometric data as well as mono- and bistatic scattering coefficients. These datasets are homogenous, globally consistent and are acquired in high spatial resolution. Hence, they may offer a unique basic dataset which could be useful in land cover monitoring. Based on first datasets available from the TanDEM-X mission, the main goal of this research is to investigate the information content of TanDEM-X data for mapping forests and other land cover classes in a tropical peatland area. More specifically, the study explores the utility of bistatic features for distinguishing between open and closed forest canopies, which is of relevance in the context of deforestation and forest degradation monitoring. To assess the predominant information content of TanDEM-X data, the importance of information derived from the bistatic system is compared against the monostatic case, usually available from SAR systems. The usefulness of the TanDEM-X mission data, i.e. scattering coefficients, derived textural information and interferometric coherence is investigated via a feature selection process. The resulting optimal feature sets representing a monostatic and a bistatic SAR dataset were used in a subsequent classification to assess the added value of the bistatic TanDEM-X features in the separability of land cover classes. The results obtained indicated that especially the interferometric coherence significantly improved the separability of thematic classes compared to a dataset of monostatic acquisition. The bistatic coherence was mainly governed by volume decorrelation of forest canopy constituents and carries information about the canopy structure which is related to canopy cover. In contrast, the bistatic scattering coefficient had no significant contribution to class separability. The classification with coherence and textural information outperformed the classification with the monostatic scattering coefficient and texture by more than 10% and achieved an overall accuracy of 85%. These results indicate that TanDEM-X can serve as a valuable and consistent source for mapping and monitoring tropical forests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-26
Number of pages11
JournalRemote sensing of environment
Volume151
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • TanDEM-X
  • Land cover
  • Interferometric coherence
  • Tropical fo
  • REDD+
  • ITC-CV

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