Citation Silva CA, Saatchi SS, Garcia M, Labriere N, Klauberg C, Ferraz A, Meyer V, Jeffery KJ, Abernethy K, White L, Zhao K, Lewis S & Hudak AT (2018) Comparison of Small- and Large-Footprint Lidar Characterization of Tropical Forest Aboveground Structure and Biomass: A Case Study From Central Gabon. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, 11 (10), pp. 3512-3526. https://doi.org/10.1109/JSTARS.2018.2816962
Abstract NASA's Global Ecosystem Dynamic Investigation (GEDI) mission has been designed to measure forest structure using lidar waveforms to sample the earth's vegetation while in orbit aboard the International Space Station. In this paper, we used airborne large-footprint (LF) lidar measurements to simulate GEDI observations from which we retrieved ground elevation, vegetation height, and aboveground biomass (AGB). GEDI-like product accuracy was then assessed by comparing them to similar products derived from airborne small-footprint (SF) lidar measurements. The study focused on tropical forests and used data collected during the NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) AfriSAR ground and airborne campaigns in the Lope National Park in Central Gabon. The measurements covered a gradient of successional stages of forest development with different height, canopy density, and topography. The comparison of the two sensors shows that LF lidar waveforms and simulated waveforms from SF lidar are equivalent in their ability to estimate ground elevation (RMSE = 0.5 m, bias = 0.29 m) and maximum forest height (RMSE = 2.99 m, bias = 0.24 m) over the study area. The difference in the AGB estimated from both lidar instruments at the 1-ha spatial scale is small over the entire study area (RMSE = 6.34 Mg·ha-1, bias = 11.27 Mg·ha-1) and the bias is attributed to the impact of ground slopes greater than 10–20° on the LF lidar measurements of forest height. Our results support the ability of GEDILF lidar to measure the complex structure of humid tropical forests and provide AGB estimates comparable to SF-derived ones.