ISPRS Annals of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume V-3-2022
17 May 2022
 | 17 May 2022


E. Kutchartt, M. Pedron, and F. Pirotti

Keywords: GEDI, full-waveform lidar, forestry, canopy height models, tree volume, biomass

Abstract. Active remote sensing systems orbiting the Earth are only a small portion of the current constellation of satellites and will increase in number and advance in technology in the future. The launch of the GEDI sensor in December 2018, for an expected life-span period of about 2 years, is a fundamental step of this revolution, as it is the first spaceborne full-waveform lidar specifically designed for measuring the structure of ecosystems, providing information of the vertical profile of forests.

Accuracy assessment of GEDI height metrics in the context of an Alpine forest environment in steep terrain scenarios has been conducted in this study. We used discrete return lidar from a recent aerial laser scanner survey as reference to analyse differences of heights of terrain elevation and maximum canopy height of the vegetation detected in each GEDI footprint. The height metrics differences between the discrete lidar and the GEDI data were then analysed to verify any correlation with the following factors: morphology (terrain slope), land cover (land cover type, fraction of canopy cover, vegetation density), GEDI laser beam characteristics (day/night-time acquisition, full power vs coverage laser beam, beam ID, laser sensitivity). Further analysis involved shifting the footprints’ location in 8 different direction and 4 distances to assess the impact of geolocation errors on accuracy and precision.

Results show that what most influences accuracy in this study is the terrain slope, very likely linked to the uncertainty of geolocation of the GEDI footprints, suggesting caution in using single GEDI footprints if located in steep environments. Other than slope, terrain height accuracy varies mostly with forest type (conifer vs broadleaves), but not significantly with other factors. Canopy height instead is affected by most factors; high vegetation canopy is overestimated by ∼3 m in GEDI, and underestimated by 3 m over heath and bushes (median difference). Higher sensitivity pulses and night-time pulses provide better accuracy. Laser beams with full power also have better accuracy; beams with id 1000 and 1011 provide the most accurate canopy heights. Shifting the footprint position decreased accuracy except at 15 m and 270° with respect to orbit direction (left-looking).