Local-scale mapping of biomass in tropical lowland pine savannas using ALOS PALSAR

Dimitrios Michelakis*, Neil Stuart, German Lopez, Vinicio Linares, Iain H. Woodhouse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Fine-scale biomass maps offer forest managers the prospect of more detailed and locally accurate information for measuring, reporting and verification activities in contexts, such as sustainable forest management, carbon stock assessments and ecological studies of forest growth and change. In this study, we apply a locally validated method for estimating aboveground woody biomass (AGWB) from Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) Phased Array-type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (PALSAR) data to produce an AGWB map for the lowland pine savannas of Belize at a spatial resolution of 100 m. Over 90% of these woodlands are predicted to have an AGWB below 60 tha-1, with the average woody biomass of these savannas estimated at 23.5 tha-1. By overlaying these spatial estimates upon previous thematic mapping of national land cover, we derive representative average biomass values of ~32 tha-1 and ~18 tha-1 for the previously qualitative classes of "denser" and "less dense" tree savannas. The predicted average biomass, from the mapping for savannas woodlands occurring within two of Belize's larger protected areas, agree closely with previous biomass estimates for these areas based on ground surveys and forest inventories (error ≤20%). However, biomass estimates derived for these protected areas from two biomass maps produced at coarser resolutions (500 m and 1000 m) from global datasets overestimated biomass (errors ≥275% in each dataset). The finer scale biomass mapping of both protected and unprotected areas provides evidence to suggest that protection has a positive effect upon woody biomass, with the mean AGWB higher in areas protected and managed for biodiversity (protected and passively managed (PRPM), 29.5 tha-1) compared to unprotected areas (UPR, 23.29 tha-1). These findings suggest that where sufficient ground data exists to build a reliable local relationship to radar backscatter, the more detailed biomass mapping that can be produced from ALOS and similar satellite data at resolutions of ~100 m provides more accurate and spatially detailed information that is more appropriate for supporting the management of forested areas of ~10,000 ha than biomass maps that can be produced from lower resolution, but freely available global data sets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2377-2399
Number of pages23
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Belize
  • Biomass map
  • Conservation planning
  • Earth observation
  • Savanna woodlands


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