An Evaluation of the ALOS PALSAR L-Band Backscatter-Above Ground Biomass Relationship Queensland, Australia: Impacts of Surface Moisture Condition and Vegetation Structure

Richard Lucas, John Armston, Russell Fairfax, Rod Fensham, Arnon Accad, Joao Carreiras, Jack Kelley, Peter Bunting, Daniel Clewley, Steven Bray, Dan Metcalfe, John Dwyer, Michiala Bowen, Teresa Eyre, Melinda Laidlaw, Masanobu Shimada

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Focusing on woody vegetation in Queensland, Australia, the study aimed to establish whether the relationship between Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) Phased Array L-band SAR (PALSAR) HH and HV backscattering coefficients and above ground biomass (AGB) was consistent within and between structural formations (forests, woodlands and open woodlands, including scrub). Across these formations, 2781 plot-based measurements (from 1139 sites) of tree diameters by species were collated, from which AGB was estimated using generic allometric equations. For Queensland, PALSAR fine beam dual (FBD) 50 m strip data for 2007 were provided through the Japanese Space Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Kyoto and Carbon (K&C) Initiative, with up to 3 acquisitions available for each Reference System for Planning (RSP) paths. When individual strips acquired over Queensland were combined, 'banding' was evident within the resulting mosaics, with this attributed to enhanced L-band backscatter following rainfall events in some areas. Reference to Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-EOS (AMSR-E) data indicated that strips with enhanced L-band backscatter corresponded to areas with increased effective vegetation water content kg m(-2) and, to a lesser extent, soil moisture g cm(-3). Regardless of moisture conditions, L-band HV topographically normalized backscattering intensities backscatter (sigma(o)(f)) increased asymptotically with AGB, with the saturation level being greatest for forests and least for open woodlands. However, under conditions of relative maximum surface moisture, L-band HV and HH sigma(o)(f) was enhanced by as much as 2.5 and 4.0 dB respectively, particularly for forests of lower AGB, with this resulting in an overall reduction in dynamic range. The saturation level also reduced at L-band HH for forests and woodlands but remained similar for open woodlands. Differences in the rate of increase in both L-band HH and HV sigma(o)(f) with AGB were observed between forests and the woodland categories (for both relatively wet and dry conditions) with these attributed, in part, to differences in the size class distribution and stem density between non-remnant (secondary) forests and remnant woodlands of lower AGB. The study concludes that PALSAR data acquired when surface moisture and rainfall are minimal allow better estimation of the AGB of woody vegetation and that retrieval algorithms ideally need to consider differences in surface moisture conditions and vegetation structure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-593
Number of pages18
JournalIEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2010


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