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Funded Research

Integrating Vegetation 3D Structure and Ecological modeling for Continental Scale Assessments of Biodiversity, Biomass and Disturbance

Dubayah, Ralph: University of Maryland (Project Lead)
Blair, Bryan: NASA GSFC (Co-Investigator)
Goetz, Scott: Northern Arizona University (Co-Investigator)
Hansen, Andrew (Andy): Montana State University (Co-Investigator)
Hofton, Michelle: University of Maryland (Co-Investigator)
Hurtt, George: University of Maryland (Co-Investigator)
Swatantran, Anuradha (Anu): University of Maryland (Participant)

Project Funding: 2008 - 2011

NRA: 2007 NASA: Terrestrial Ecology   

Funded by NASA

With the advent of new satellite remote sensing technology, particularly the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) on board ICESAT, and proposed future missions, such as DESDynI, there is new opportunity to derive information on the vertical structure of vegetation canopies of the utmost relevance to terrestrial ecology applications. The overall science goal of this proposal is to link lidar remote sensing of vegetation structure and ecosystem modeling to improve the characterization and predictability of terrestrial systems for both ecosystem dynamics and associated patterns of biodiversity. In addressing this science goal we will also answer questions of direct relevance to this NRA concerning the development of requirements for space missions focused on the observation of vertical vegetation structure and the ecosystems models that will use these observations. In particular we seek to answer the following three questions: 1) How can patterns of ecosystem structure be observed and modeled at region- to continental- scales using an approach that combines remotely-sensed observations of canopy structure with ecosystem modeling? (2) What are the satellite measurement requirements, derived from ecosystem model requirements, needed to accurately quantify patterns of ecosystem structure and improve model predictions of future dynamics for carbon and biodiversity studies? (3) What are the relationships between bird species richness, vegetation structure and ecosystem productivity at regional to continental-scales? The proposed research falls into five categories: (1) New LVIS flying along important ecosystem gradients, and analysis of existing LVIS data, to assess the relationship between structure and biodiversity at fine scales; (2) Production of North American forest height and 3D structure distributions from ICESAT at various model gird resolutions; (3) development of a continental-scale framework and subsequent modeling of carbon stocks, fluxes and productivity using and ecosystemd model (ED) initialized with ICESAT; (4) validation and sensitivity studies of ED model outputs of carbon stock, flux and productivity to variations in vertical canopy structure inputs at different spatial scales to determine measurement requirements for carbon and biodiversity studies; (5) application of the derived and modeled products along LVIS gradients, and continentally using ICESAT/ED in national scale assessments of structure, productivity and biodiversity.


Goetz, S., Dubayah, R. 2014. Advances in remote sensing technology and implications for measuring and monitoring forest carbon stocks and change. Carbon Management. 2(3), 231-244. DOI: 10.4155/CMT.11.18

Tang, H., Brolly, M., Zhao, F., Strahler, A. H., Schaaf, C. L., Ganguly, S., Zhang, G., Dubayah, R. 2014. Deriving and validating Leaf Area Index (LAI) at multiple spatial scales through lidar remote sensing: A case study in Sierra National Forest, CA. Remote Sensing of Environment. 143, 131-141. DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2013.12.007

Tang, H., Dubayah, R., Swatantran, A., Hofton, M., Sheldon, S., Clark, D. B., Blair, B. 2012. Retrieval of vertical LAI profiles over tropical rain forests using waveform lidar at La Selva, Costa Rica. Remote Sensing of Environment. 124, 242-250. DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2012.05.005

Zolkos, S. G., Goetz, S. J., Dubayah, R. 2013. A meta-analysis of terrestrial aboveground biomass estimation using lidar remote sensing. Remote Sensing of Environment. 128, 289-298. DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2012.10.017

2015 NASA Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Joint Science Workshop Poster(s)

  • The Influence of Vegetation Height Heterogeneity on Forest and Woodland Bird Species Richness across the United States   --   (Qiongyu Huang, Anuradha Swatantran, Ralph Dubayah, Scott J. Goetz)   [abstract]
  • Integrating Lidar Canopy Height and Landsat-based Forest Disturbance History with Ecosystem Demography Model for Carbon Change Estimation, A Case in Charles County, Maryland   --   (Maosheng Zhao, Chengquan Huang, George Hurtt, Ralph Dubayah, Justin Fisk, Anu Swatantran, Wenli Huang, Hao Tang)   [abstract]

2011 NASA Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems Joint Science Workshop Poster(s)

  • A perspective on advances in remote sensing technology and its implications for measuring and monitoring forest carbon stocks and change   --   (Scott J. Goetz, Ralph Dubayah)   [abstract]
  • Continental scale modeling of bird diversity using canopy structure metrics of habitat heterogeneity   --   (Scott J. Goetz, Mindy Sun, Ralph Dubayah)   [abstract]
  • Linking Models and Data on Vegetation Structure: Implications for Predictions of North American Carbon Stocks and Fluxes   --   (George Hurtt, Justin Fisk, Ralph Dubayah, Steve Flanagan, Katelyn Dolan, Michael Lefsky, Naiara Pinto, Hank Shugart, Marc Simard)   [abstract]

2010 NASA Terrestrial Ecology Science Team Meeting Poster(s)

  • Field and Aircraft Observations in Support of DESDynI   --   (Ralph Dubayah, Kathleen Bergen, Bryan Blair, Bruce Cook, Peter Griffith, Forrest Hall, Megan McGroddy, Paul Montesano, Amy Morrell, Ross Nelson, Wenge Ni-Meister, Michael O'Connell, Jon Ranson, Chelsea Robinson, Jeremy Rubio, Sassan Saatchi, Marc Simard, Paul Siqueira, Alan Strahler, Guoqing Sue, Anuradha Swatantran)   [abstract]   [poster]
  • Integrating Vegetation 3D Structure and Ecological Modeling for Continental Scale Assessments of Biodiversity, Biomass and Disturbance   --   (Ralph Dubayah, George Hurtt, Scott Goetz, Andy Hansen)   [abstract]
  • Remote Sensing of Neotropical Migrant Breeding Bird Habitat   --   (Scott Goetz, Daniel Steinberg, Matthew Betts, Richard Holmes, Patrick Doran, Ralph Dubayah, Mindy Sun, Michelle Hofton)   [abstract]
  • Integration of long term Landsat observations with DESDynI measurements for monitoring terrestrial carbon fluxes within and beyond the DESDynI mission   --   (Chengquan Huang, Ralph Dubayah, George Hurtt, Jeffrey G Masek, Samuel N Goward)   [abstract]

More details may be found in the following project profile(s):