Large off-nadir scan angle of airborne LiDAR can severely affect the estimates of forest structure metrics

Jing Liu (Corresponding Author), Andrew K. Skidmore, Simon D. Jones, Tiejun Wang, Marco Heurich, Xi Zhu, Yifang Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Gap fraction (P gap) and vertical gap fraction profile (vertical P gap profile) are important forest structural metrics. Accurate estimation of P gap and vertical P gap profile is therefore critical for many ecological applications, including leaf area index (LAI) mapping, LAI profile estimation and wildlife habitat modelling. Although many studies estimated P gap and vertical P gap profile from airborne LiDAR data, the scan angle was often overlooked and a nadir view assumed. However, the scan angle can be off-nadir and highly variable in the same flight strip or across different flight strips. In this research, the impact of off-nadir scan angle on P gap and vertical P gap profile was evaluated, for several forest types. Airborne LiDAR data from nadir (0°∼7°), small off-nadir (7°∼23°), and large off-nadir (23°∼38°) directions were used to calculate both P gap and vertical P gap profile. Digital hemispherical photographs (DHP) acquired during fieldwork were used as references for validation. Our results show that angular P gap from airborne LiDAR correlates well with angular P gap from DHP (R 2 = 0.74, 0.87, and 0.67 for nadir, small off-nadir and large off-nadir direction). But underestimation of P gap from LiDAR amplifies at large off-nadir scan angle. By comparing P gap and vertical P gap profiles retrieved from different directions, it is shown that scan angle impact on P gap and vertical P gap profile differs amongst different forest types. The difference is likely to be caused by different leaf angle distribution and canopy architecture in these forest types. Statistical results demonstrate that the scan angle impact is more severe for plots with discontinuous or sparse canopies. These include coniferous plots, and deciduous or mixed plots with between-crown gaps. In these discontinuous plots, P gap and vertical P gap profiles are maximum when observed from nadir direction, and then rapidly decrease with increasing scan angle. The results of this research have many important practical implications. First, it is suggested that large off-nadir scan angle of airborne LiDAR should be avoided to ensure a more accurate P gap and LAI estimation. Second, the angular dependence of vertical P gap profiles observed from airborne LiDAR should be accounted for, in order to improve the retrieval of LAI profiles, and other quantitative canopy structural metrics. This is especially necessary when using multi-temporal datasets in discontinuous forest types. Third, the anisotropy of P gap and vertical P gap profile observed by airborne LiDAR, can potentially help to resolve the anisotropic behavior of canopy reflectance, and refine the inversion of biophysical and biochemical properties from passive multispectral or hyperspectral data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-25
Number of pages13
JournalISPRS journal of photogrammetry and remote sensing
Volume136
Early online date14 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

Keywords

  • ITC-ISI-JOURNAL-ARTICLE

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