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Decrease of L-band SAR backscatter with biomass of dense forests

Mermoz S., Rejou-Mechain M., Villard L., Le Toan T., Rossi V., Gourlet-Fleury S.. 2015. Remote Sensing of Environment, 159 : p. 307-317.

DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2014.12.019

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) is one of the most promising remote sensors to map forest carbon. The unique spaceborne and long-wavelength SAR data currently available are L-band data, but their relationship with forest biomass is still controversial, particularly for high biomass values. While many studies assume a complete loss of sensitivity above a saturation point, typically around 100 t.ha? 1, others assume a continuous positive correlation between SAR backscatter and biomass. The objective of this paper is to revisit the relationship between L-band SAR backscatter and dense tropical forest biomass for a large range of biomass values using both theoretical and experimental approaches. Both approaches revealed that after reaching a maximum value, SAR backscatter correlates negatively with forest biomass. This phenomenon is interpreted as a signal attenuation from the forest canopy as the canopy becomes denser with increasing biomass. This result has strong implications for L-band vegetation mapping because it can lead to a greater-than-expected under-estimation of biomass. The consequences for L-band biomass mapping are illustrated, and solutions are proposed.

Mots-clés : télédétection; radar; forêt tropicale humide; biomasse; ressource forestière; cartographie; cycle du carbone; carbone; stockage; afrique centrale; cameroun

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