A Methodological Framework for Mapping Canopy Cover Using ICESat-2 in the Southern USA Academic Article uri icon


  • NASAs Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) provides exceptional opportunities for characterizing the structure of ecosystems through the acquisition of along-track, three-dimensional observations. Focusing on canopy cover as a fundamental parameter for assessing forest conditions, the overall goal of this study was to establish a framework for generating a gridded 30 m canopy cover product with ICESat-2. Specifically, our objectives were to (1) Determine and compare ICESat-2-derived canopy cover with airborne lidar-derived and the 2016 National Land Cover Database (NLCD) cover product estimates, and (2) Evaluate a methodology for wall-to-wall mapping of canopy cover. Using two Southern US sites, the Sam Houston National Forest (SHNF) in south-east Texas and the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center (SDFEC) in southern Alabama, four measures of canopy cover estimated with ICESat-2s Land-Vegetation Along-Track Product, or ATL08, were evaluated at the 30 m pixel scale. Comparisons were made using spatially coinciding NLCD pixels and airborne lidar-derived reference canopy cover. A suite of Landsat and Landsat-derived parameters were then used as predictors to model and map each measure of canopy cover with Random Forests (RF), and their accuracies were assessed and compared. Correlations (r) between ICESat-2-derived and airborne lidar canopy cover at the pixel scale ranged from 0.57 to 0.78, and R2 up to 0.81 was produced between NLCD and ICESat-2-derived canopy cover. RF models developed for extrapolating ICESat-2-derived canopy cover estimate yielded R2 values between 0.50 and 0.61 (RMSEs between 16% and 20%) when evaluated with airborne lidar-derived canopy cover. With a demonstrated capability of ICESat-2 to estimate vegetation biophysical parameters, the findings serve to support the spatially comprehensive mapping of other vegetation attributes, especially forest aboveground biomass, and contribute to the development of an up-to-date gridded canopy cover product.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Narine, L. L., Popescu, S. C., & Malambo, L.

complete list of authors

  • Narine, Lana L||Popescu, Sorin C||Malambo, Lonesome

publication date

  • 2023