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Vegetation optical depth at L-band and above ground biomass in the tropical range: Evaluating their relationships at continental and regional scales

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Vittucci, C., Vaglio Laurin, G., Tramontana, G., Ferrazzoli, P., Guerriero, L., & Papale, D. (2019). Vegetation optical depth at L-band and above ground biomass in the tropical range: Evaluating their relationships at continental and regional scales. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 77, 151-161. doi:10.1016/j.jag.2019.01.006.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-2ED5-A
Abstract
The relationship between vegetation optical depth (VOD) retrieved by L-band SMOS radiometer and forest above ground biomass (AGB) was investigated in tropical areas of Africa and South America. VOD was retrieved from the latest version of level 2 SMOS algorithm, while reference AGB was obtained from a pantropical database, encompassing a large number of ground plot data derived from field surveys conducted on both continents. In Africa and South-America, VOD increased with AGB, reaching saturation at about 350 Mg ha−1. The strength of the relation was improved selecting VOD data in appropriate seasons, characterized by a higher dynamic range of values. The capability of VOD data to estimate AGB was further investigated using Random Forest decision trees, adding to VOD selected climate variables from the Climatic Research Unit (temperature, potential evapotranspiration, and precipitation) and water deficit data, and validating regression tests with ground data from the reference AGB database. The results for the five analyzed years indicate that the best estimates of AGB are obtained by the joined use of VOD and potential evapotranspiration input data, but all climate variables brought an improvement in AGB estimates. AGB estimates were relatively stable for the considered period, with limited variations possibly due to changes in biomass and to data quality of VOD and of climate variables. The VOD signal and estimated AGB were also analyzed according to ecological homogeneous units (ecoregions), evidencing data clusters, partially overlapped to each other, in the VOD - AGB plane.