LiDAR and WorldView-2 Satellite Data for Leaf Area Index Estimation in the Boreal Forest
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Leaf Area Index (LAI) is an important input variable for forest ecosystem modeling as it is a factor in predicting productivity and biomass, two key aspects of forest health. Current in situ methods of determining LAI are sometimes destructive and generally very time consuming. Other LAI derivation methods, mainly satellite-based in nature, do not provide sufficient spatial resolution or the precision required by forest managers. This thesis focused on estimating LAI from: i) height and density metrics derived from Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR); ii) spectral vegetation indices (SVIs), in particular the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI); and iii) a combination of these two remote sensing technologies. In situ measurements of LAI were calculated from digital hemispherical photographs (DHPs) and remotely sensed variables were derived from low density LiDAR and high resolution WorldView-2 data. Multiple Linear Regression (MLR) models were created using these variables, allowing forest-wide prediction surfaces to be created. Results from these analyses demonstrated: i) moderate explanatory power (i.e., R2 = 0.54) for LiDAR models incorporating metrics that have proven to be related to canopy structure; ii) no relationship when using SVIs; and iii) no significant improvement of LiDAR models when combining them with SVI variables. The results suggest that LiDAR models in boreal forest environments provide satisfactory estimations of LAI, even with low ranges of LAI for model calibration. On the other hand, it was anticipated that traditional SVI relationships to LAI would be present with WorldView-2 data, a result that is not easily explained. Models derived from low point density LiDAR in a mixedwood boreal environment seem to offer a reliable method of estimating LAI at a high spatial resolution for decision makers in the forestry community.