Historical forest biomass dynamics modelled with Landsat spectral trajectories

Cristina Gomez, Joanne C. White, Michael A. Wulder, Pablo Alejandro

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52 Citations (Scopus)
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Estimation of forest above ground biomass (AGB) is informative of the role of forest ecosystems in local and global carbon budgets. There is a need to retrospectively estimate biomass in order to establish a historical baseline and enable reporting of change. In this research, we used temporal spectral trajectories to inform on forest successional development status in support of modelling and mapping of historic AGB for Mediterranean pines in central Spain. AGB generated with ground plot data from the Spanish National Forest Inventory (NFI), representing two collection periods (1990 and 2000), are linked with static and dynamic spectral data as captured by Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) and Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) sensors over a 25 year period (1984–2009). The importance of forest structural complexity on the relationship between AGB and spectral vegetation indices is revealed by the analysis of wavelet transforms. Two-dimensional (2D) wavelet transforms support the identification of spectral trajectory patterns of forest stands that in turn, are associated with traits of individual NFI plots, using a flexible algorithm sensitive to capturing time series similarity. Single-date spectral indices, temporal trajectories, and temporal derivatives associated with succession are used as input variables to non-parametric decision trees for modelling, estimation, and mapping of AGB and carbon sinks over the entire study area. Results indicate that patterns of change found in Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) values are associated and relate well to classes of forest AGB. The Tasseled Cap Angle (TCA) index was found to be strongly related with forest density, although the related patterns of change had little relation with variability in historic AGB. By scaling biomass models through small (∼2.5 ha) spatial objects defined by spectral homogeneity, the AGB dynamics in the period 1990–2000 are mapped (70% accuracy when validated with plot values of change), revealing an increase of 18% in AGB irregularly distributed over 814 km2 of pines. The accumulation of C calculated in AGB was on average 0.65 t ha−1 y−1, equivalent to a fixation of 2.38 t ha−1 y−1 of carbon dioxide.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-28
Number of pages15
JournalISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Early online date22 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

National Forest Inventory data are available online, provided by Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente (España). Landsat images are available online, provided by the


  • remote sensing
  • time series
  • retrospective
  • above ground biomass
  • landsat
  • wavelet transform
  • dynamic time warping
  • national forest inventory
  • Spain


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