Forest patch height uncertainty from spaceborne data in the taiga-tundra ecotone

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Paul M Montesano1,2, Guoqing Sun1, Jon Ranson3 and Ralph Dubayah2, (1)NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (2)Univ Maryland, College Park, MD, United States, (3)NASA Goddard SFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States
In the taiga-tundra ecotone (TTE), vegetation structure change can be subtle and site-dependent, yet occur across broad scales. Recent remote sensing studies have highlighted the degree to which vegetation structure in the TTE can be characterized with spaceborne remote sensing at the plot-scale. These studies demonstrate the fundamental uncertainty of space-based local-scale vertical structure measurements that are available across broad scales and provide the opportunity to understand regional variation in detailed vegetation characteristics. Patch-scale analyses of vegetation structure provide a means to examine vertical structure and horizontal patch form, their association with landscape characteristics, and a basis for examining the variation of change in patch characteristics across sites. In this study we delineate forest patches in study sites along the TTE in northern Siberia with high resolution (0.5 - 3m) spaceborne imagery (HRSI) and attribute patches with tree cover and spectral data from Landsat 7, backscatter power from ALOS PALSAR and canopy height data based on a HRSI-derived digital surface model and ICESat-GLAS ground elevation. We examine the uncertainty of forest patch height from this suite of spaceborne medium and high resolution optical, radar, and LiDAR data. Results demonstrate the potential and limits of spaceborne estimates of patch-scale forest height whose differences are often small, biophysically relevant, and subject to variable rates of change across the broad-scale of the circumpolar TTE.