Remote Sensing of Vegetation 3D Structure for Biodiversity and Habitat: Review and Implications for LiDAR-RaDAR Spaceborne Missions

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lidar, radar, biodiversity, habitat, forest structure, vegetation structure


Biodiversity and habitat face increasing pressures due to human and natural influences that alter vegetation structure. Because of the inherent difficulty of measuring forested vegetation three-dimensional (3-D) structure on the ground, this important component of biodiversity and habitat has been, until recently, largely restricted to local measurements, or at larger scales to generalizations. New lidar and radar remote sensing instruments such as those proposed for spaceborne missions will provide the capability to fill this gap. This paper reviews the state of the art for incorporatinginformation on vegetation 3-D structure into biodiversity and habitat science and management approaches, with emphasis on use of lidar and radar data. First we review relationships between vegetation 3-D structure, biodiversity and habitat, and metrics commonly used to describe those relationships. Next, we review the technical capabilities of new lidar and radar sensors and their application to biodiversity and habitat studies to date. We then define variables that have been identified as both useful and feasible to retrieve from spaceborne lidar and radar observations and provide their accuracy and precision requirements. We conclude with a brief discussion of implications for spaceborne missions and research programs. The possibility to derive vegetation 3-D measurements from spaceborne active sensors and to integrate them into science and management comes at a critical juncture for global biodiversity conservation and opens new possibilities for advanced scientific analysis of habitat and biodiversity.

Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research





DOI of Published Version



American Geophysical Union


© 2009 American Geophysical Union