A combined GLAS and MODIS estimation of the global distribution of mean forest canopy height
Remote Sensing of Environment
Mapping the global distribution of forest canopy height is important for estimating forest biomass and terrestrial carbon flux. In this study, we present a global map of mean forest canopy height at 500 m spatial resolution obtained by combining Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) data acquired from 2005 to 2006 and 13 ancillary variables, including seven climatic variables and six remote sensing variables (nadir BRDF-adjusted reflectance at red and NIR bands, tree cover, anisotropic
... , accumulated Enhanced Vegetation Index, and elevation). The original contributions of this study include the following: (1) The wavelet method was applied to complement the GLA14 product to identify the ground peak and the top-canopy peak. We found that it was useful for dealing with waveforms with low reconstruction accuracy. (2) GLAS data from the leafless season were not used for nonevergreen forest because the height retrieval results exhibited underestimation and strong variations. (3) The anisotropic factor (ANIF), an indicator related to surface structure, was included as an ancillary variable for the first time and was determined to be important for height modeling in the Asian and North American regions. (4) The balanced random forest (BRF) algorithm was applied to register GLAS mean forest canopy height to a 500 m grid considering the small proportion of extreme height classes (tall and short trees), and it achieved good performance in terms of modeling accuracy (RMSE = 2.75 to 4.45 m) and preserving data variation. An inter-comparison among three global forest height maps [the present study, Lefsky (2010), and Simard et al. (2011) ] was implemented in a pixel-by-pixel manner. High agreement (R 2 = 0.73, RMSE = 4.49 m) was determined between the present study and Simard et al., whereas the result from Lefsky was notably different from the other two results (R 2 = 0.14, RMSE = 8.92 m, compared with the present study; R 2 = 0.11, RMSE = 11.19 m, compared with Simard et al.). Large disparities were generally associated with evergreen broadleaf forests in South America, deciduous needleleaf forests in Europe and Russian North Asia, and evergreen needleleaf forests on the West Coast of North America. Differences in the height metric were a main factor affecting the disparities among the three results. Validation against field survey data acquired from the Distributed Active Archive Center indicated the accuracy of our mean forest canopy height map (R 2 = 0.63, RMSE = 4.68 m, n = 59).