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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Using matrix models to estimate aboveground forest biomass dynamics in the eastern USA through various combinations of LiDAR, Landsat, and forest inventory data


Wu Ma

Grant Domke

Anthony D'Amato

Christopher Woodall

Brian Walters

Ram Deo

+1 more
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Secondary Title:
Environmental Research Letters


The ability to harmonize data sources with varying temporal, spatial, and ecosystem measurements (e.g. forest structure to soil organic carbon) for creation of terrestrial carbon baselines is paramount to refining the monitoring of terrestrial carbon stocks and stock changes. In this study, we developed and examined the short- (5 years) and long-term (30 years) performance of matrix models for incorporating light detection and ranging (LiDAR) strip samples and time-series Landsat surface reflectance high-level data products, with field inventory measurements to predict aboveground biomass (AGB) dynamics for study sites across the eastern USA—Minnesota (MN), Maine (ME), Pennsylvania-New Jersey (PANJ) and South Carolina (SC). The rows and columns of the matrix were stand density (i.e. number of trees per unit area) sorted by inventory plot and by species group and diameter class. Through model comparisons in the short-term, we found that average stand basal area (B) predicted by three matrix models all fell within the 95% confidence interval of observed values. The three matrix models were based on (i) only field inventory variables (inventory), (ii) LiDAR and Landsat-derived metrics combined with field inventory variables (LiDAR + Landsat + inventory), and (iii) only Landsat-derived metrics combined with field inventory variables (Landsat + inventory), respectively. In the long term, predicted AGB using LiDAR + Landsat + inventory and Landsat + inventory variables had similar AGB patterns (differences within 7.2 Mg ha-1) to those predicted by matrix models with only inventory variables from 2015–2045. When considering uncertainty derived from fuzzy sets all three matrix models had similar AGBs (differences within 7.6 Mg ha-1) by the year 2045. Therefore, the use of matrix models enabled various combinations of LiDAR, Landsat, and field data, especially Landsat data, to estimate large-scale AGB dynamics (i.e. central component of carbon stock monitoring) without loss of accuracy from only using variables from forest inventories. These findings suggest that the use of Landsat data alone incorporating elevation (E), plot slope (S) and aspect (A), and site productivity (C) could produce suitable estimation of AGB dynamics (ranging from 67.1–105.5 Mg ha-1 in 2045) to actual AGB dynamics using matrix models. Such a framework may afford refined monitoring and estimation of terrestrial carbon stocks and stock changes from spatially explicit to spatially explicit and spatially continuous estimates and also provide temporal flexibility and continuity with the Landsat time series.