Lidar-based mapping of leaf area index and its use for validating GLOBCARBON satellite LAI product in a temperate forest of the southern USA Academic Article uri icon


  • Lidar provides enhanced abilities to remotely map leaf area index (LAI) with improved accuracies. We aim to further explore the capability of discrete-return lidar for estimating LAI over a pine-dominated forest in East Texas, with a secondary goal to compare the lidar-derived LAI map and the GLOBCARBON moderate-resolution satellite LAI product. Specific problems we addressed include (1) evaluating the effects of analysts and algorithms on in-situ LAI estimates from hemispherical photographs (hemiphoto), (2) examining the effectiveness of various lidar metrics, including laser penetration, canopy height and foliage density metrics, to predict LAI, (3) assessing the utility of integrating Quickbird multispectral imagery with lidar for improving the LAI estimate accuracy, and (4) developing a scheme to co-register the lidar and satellite LAI maps and evaluating the consistency between them. Results show that the use of different analysts or algorithms in analyzing hemiphotos caused an average uncertainty of 0.35 in in-situ LAI, and that several laser penetration metrics in logarithm models were more effective than other lidar metrics, with the best one explaining 84% of the variation in the in-situ LAI (RMSE = 0.29 LAI). The selection of plot size and height threshold in calculating laser penetration metrics greatly affected the effectiveness of these metrics. The combined use of NDVI and lidar metrics did not significantly improve estimation over the use of lidar alone. We also found that mis-registration could induce a large artificial discrepancy into the pixelwise comparison between the coarse-resolution satellite and fine-resolution lidar-derived LAI maps. By compensating for a systematic sub-pixel shift error, the correlation between two maps increased from 0.08 to 0.85 for pines (n = 24pixels). However, the absolute differences between the two LAI maps still remained large due to the inaccuracy in accounting for clumping effects. Overall, our findings imply that lidar offers a superior tool for mapping LAI at local to regional scales as compared to optical remote sensing, accuracies of lidar-estimate LAI are affected not only by the choice of models but also by the absolute accuracy of in-situ reference LAI used for model calibration, and lidar-derived LAI maps can serve as reliable references for validating moderate-resolution satellite LAI products over large areas. 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhao, K., & Popescu, S.

citation count

  • 169

complete list of authors

  • Zhao, Kaiguang||Popescu, Sorin

publication date

  • August 2009