Forest canopy height from the Multiangle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) assessed with high resolution discrete return lidar

Mark Chopping, Anne Nolin, Gretchen G. Moisen, John V. Martonchik, Michael Bull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


In this study retrievals of forest canopy height were obtained through adjustment of a simple geometric-optical (GO) model against red band surface bidirectional reflectance estimates from NASA's Multiangle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR), mapped to a 250 m grid. The soil-understory background contribution was partly isolated prior to inversion using regression relationships with the isotropic, geometric, and volume scattering kernel weights of a Li-Ross kernel-driven bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF) model. The height retrievals were assessed using discrete return lidar data acquired over sites in Colorado as part of the Cold Land Processes Experiment (CLPX) and used with fractional crown cover retrievals to obtain aboveground woody biomass estimates. For all model runs with reasonable backgrounds and initial b/r (vertical to horizontal crown radii) values < 2.0, root mean square error (RMSE) distributions were centered between 2.5 and 3.7 m while R2 distributions were centered between 0.4 and 0.7. The MISR/GO aboveground biomass estimates predicted via regression on fractional cover and mean canopy height for the CLPX sites showed good agreement with U.S. Forest Service Interior West map data (adjusted R2 = 0.84). The implication is that multiangle sensors such as MISR can provide spatially contiguous retrievals of forest canopy height, cover, and aboveground woody biomass that are potentially useful in mapping distributions of aboveground carbon stocks, tracking disturbance, and in initializing, constraining, and validating ecosystem models. This is important because the MISR record is spatially comprehensive and extends back to the year 2000 and the launch of the NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) Terra satellite; it might thus provide a ~ 10-year baseline record that would enhance exploitation of data from the NASA Deformation, Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics of Ice (DESDynI) mission, as well as furthering realization of synergies with active instruments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2172-2185
Number of pages14
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • Biomass
  • Canopy
  • Cover
  • Forest
  • Height
  • Inversion
  • Mapping
  • Model
  • Multiangle


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