Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite data provide a valuable means for the large-scale and long-term monitoring of structural components of forest stands. The potential of TanDEM-X interferometric SAR (InSAR) for the assessment of forest structural properties has been widely verified. However, present studies are mostly restricted to homogeneous forests and do not account for stratification in assessing model performance. A systematic sensitivity analysis of the TanDEM-X SAR signal to forest structural parameters was carried out with emphasis on different strata of forest stands (location of the study site, forest type, and development stage). Forest structure was parameterized by forest height metrics and stem volume. Results show that X-band volume coherence is highly sensitive to the forest canopy. Volume scattering within the canopy is dependent on the vertical heterogeneity of the forest stand. In general, TanDEM-X coherence is more sensitive to forest vertical structure compared to backscatter. The relations between TanDEM-X volume coherence and forest structural properties were significant at the level of a single test site as well as across sites in temperate forests in Germany. Forest type does not affect the overall relationship between the SAR signal and the forests' vertical structure. The prediction of forest structural parameters based on the outcome of the sensitivity analysis yielded model accuracies between 15% (relative root mean square error) for Lorey's height and 32% for stem volume. The global database of single-polarized bistatic TanDEM-X data provides an important source for mapping structural parameters in temperate forests at large scale, irrespective of forest type.
- Forest structure
- Temperate forests