By Teri Greene
The study, “Using ICESat-2 to Estimate and Map Forest Aboveground Biomass: A First Example” in the journal Remote Sensing, shows how NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, can be used to estimate aboveground biomass, or AGB, of forests and map its distribution.
Narine said limited information on the three-dimensional structure of forests has contributed to uncertainties in determining carbon budgets. However, ICESat-2 can capture this information using a laser-based lidar (light detection and ranging) instrument.
Lidar facilitates direct three-dimensional structural measurements, and using this technology from a space-based platform translates to exciting possibilities for assessing forest resources up to global scales, Narine said.
Knowing the capabilities of ICESat-2 allows for a better understanding of the satellite’s capabilities and limitations for characterizing vegetation.
“With ICESat-2 providing elevation measurements globally, a plethora of indicators of ecosystem health and function — including a key surrogate measure of forest AGB — can be potentially estimated to support sustainable management of forests,” Narine said.
The ICESat-2 mission was primarily designed to capture ice measurements, but its capture of data over vegetated areas offers investigators broader insights into ecosystem structure and the potential to contribute to the sustainable management of forest ecosystems.