High-resolution landscape-scale biomass mapping using a spatiotemporal patchwork of LiDAR coverages

by   Lucas K Johnson, et al.

Estimating forest aboveground biomass at fine spatial scales has become increasingly important for greenhouse gas estimation, monitoring, and verification efforts to mitigate climate change. Airborne LiDAR continues to be a valuable source of remote sensing data for estimating aboveground biomass. However airborne LiDAR collections may take place at local or regional scales covering irregular, non-contiguous footprints, resulting in a 'patchwork' of different landscape segments at different points in time. Here we addressed common obstacles including selection of training data, the investigation of regional or coverage specific patterns in bias and error, and map agreement, and model-based precision assessments at multiple scales. Three machine learning algorithms and an ensemble model were trained using field inventory data (FIA), airborne LiDAR, and topographic, climatic and cadastral geodata. Using strict selection criteria, 801 FIA plots were selected with co-located point clouds drawn from a patchwork of 17 leaf-off LiDAR coverages 2014-2019). Our ensemble model created 30m AGB prediction surfaces within a predictor-defined area of applicability (98 resulting AGB predictions were compared with FIA plot-level and areal estimates at multiple scales of aggregation. Our model was overall accurate ( 13-33 field-observed variation (R^2 0.74-0.93), produced estimates that were both largely consistent with FIA's aggregate summaries (86 CI), as well as precise when aggregated to arbitrary small-areas (mean bootstrap standard error 0.37 Mg ha^-1). We share practical solutions to challenges faced when using spatiotemporal patchworks of LiDAR to meet growing needs for biomass prediction and mapping, and applications in carbon accounting and ecosystem stewardship.


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