Estimating biomass in Hedmark County, Norway using national forest inventory field plots and airborne laserscanning

In a recent study published in Remote Sensing of Environment two sampling and estimation strategies for regional forest inventory were investigated in detail and results were presented for various geographical scales. Airborne laser scanner (ALS) data were acquired to augment data from a systematic sample of National Forest Inventory (NFI) ground plots in Hedmark County, Norway (27,390 km2). Approximately 50% of the NFI field plots were covered by the systematic ALS sample of 53 parallel flight lines spaced 6 km apart. The area was stratified into eight cover classes and independent log-transformed regression models were developed for each class to predict total above-ground dry biomass (AGB). The two laser-ground estimation strategies tested were a model-dependent (MD), two-phase approach that rests on the assumption that the predictive models are correctly specified, and a model-assisted (MA) approach with a two-stage probability sampling design which utilizes design-unbiased estimators. ALS AGB estimates were reported by land cover class and compared to the NFI ground estimates. The ALS-based MA and MD mean estimates differed from the NFI AGB estimates by about 2% and 8%, respectively, for the entire County. At the county level the smallest estimated standard error (SE) for the estimates was obtained using the field data alone. However, the SEs calculated from field and ALS data were based on unequal numbers of ground plots. When considering only the NFI plots in the ALS strips, the smallest SEs were obtained using the MD framework. However, we also illustrated the sensitivity of the estimates of applying different plausible models. All the applied estimators assumed simple random sampling while the selection of flight lines as well as ground plots followed a systematic design. Thus, the estimates of SE were most likely conservative. Simulated sampling undertaken in a parallel research effort suggests that the overestimation of the SEs was probably much larger for the ALS-based estimates compared to the NFI estimates. ALS-based estimates were also derived for sub-county political units and thereby demonstrated how limited sample sizes affect the standard error of the biomass estimates.

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