Canadian Forest Service Publications

Integrating profiling LIDAR with Landsat data for regional boreal forest canopy attribute estimation and change characterization. 2007. Wulder, M.A.; Han, T.; White, J.C.; Sweda, T.; Tsuzuki, H. Remote Sensing of Environment 110: 123-137.

Year: 2007

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 27412

Language: English

Availability: Not available through the CFS (click for more information).

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2007.02.002

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Forest dynamics are characterized by both continuous (i.e., growth) and discontinuous (i.e., disturbance) changes. Change detection techniques that use optical remotely sensed data to capture disturbance related changes are established and commonly applied; however, approaches for the capture of continuous forest changes are less mature. Optical remotely sensed imagery is well suited for capturing horizontally distributed conditions, structures, and changes, while Light Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) data are more appropriate for capturing vertically distributed elements of forest structure and change. The integration of optical remotely sensed imagery and LIDAR data provides improved opportunities to fully characterize forest canopy attributes and dynamics.

The study described in this paper captures forest conditions along a corridor approximately 600 km long through the boreal forest of Canada. Two coincident LIDAR transects, representing 1997 and 2002 forest conditions respectively, are compared using image segments generated from Landsat ETM+ imagery. The image segments are used to provide a spatial framework within which the attributes and temporal dynamics of the forest canopy are estimated and compared. Segmented and classified Landsat imagery provides a context for the comparison of sufficiently spatially related LIDAR profiles and for the provision of categories to aid in the application of empirical models requiring knowledge of land cover.

Global and local approaches were employed for characterizing changes in forest attributes over time. The global approach, emphasized the overall trend in forest change along the length of the entire transect, and indicated that key canopy attributes were stable, and transect characteristics, including forest canopy height, did not change significantly over the five-year period of this study (two sample t-test, p = 0.08). The local approach analyzed segment-based changes in canopy attributes, providing spatially explicit indications of forest growth and depletion. The local approach identified that 84% of the Landsat segments intercepted by both LIDAR transects either have no change, or have a small average increase in canopy height (0.7 m), while the other 16% of segments have an average decrease in canopy height of 1.6 m. As expected, the difference in the magnitude of the changes was markedly greater for depletions than it was for growth, but was less spatially extensive. Growth tends to occur incrementally over broad areas; whereas, depletions are dramatic and spatially constrained. The approach presented holds potential for investigating the impacts of climate change across a latitudinal gradient of boreal forest.