The scientific community involved in the UN-REDD program is still reporting large uncertainties about the amount and spatial variability of CO2 stored in forests. The main limitation has been the lack of field samplings over space and time needed to calibrate and convert remote sensing measurements into aboveground biomass (AGB).
As an alternative to costly field inventories, this team of researchers examined the reliability of state-of-the-art lidar methods to provide direct retrieval of many forest metrics that are commonly collected through field sampling techniques (e.g., tree density, individual tree height, crown cover). AGB is estimated using existing allometric equations that are fed by lidar-derived metrics at either the individual tree- or forest layer-level (for the overstory or underneath layers, respectively).
Results over 40 plots of a multilayered forest located in northwest Portugal show that the lidar method provides AGB estimates with a relatively small random error (RMSE = of 17.1%) and bias (of 4.6%). It provides local AGB baselines that meet the requirements in terms of accuracy to calibrate satellite remote sensing measurements (e.g., the upcoming lidar GEDI (Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation), and the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) missions NISAR (National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Indian Space Research Organization SAR) and BIOMASS from the European Space Agency, ESA) for AGB mapping purposes. The development of similar techniques over a variety of forest types would be a significant improvement in quantifying CO2 stocks and changes to comply with the UN-REDD policies.