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Modelling LiDAR derived tree canopy height from Landsat TM, ETM plus and OLI satellite imagery - A machine learning approach

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 01:27 authored by Staben, GW, Arko LucieerArko Lucieer, Scarth, P
Understanding ecological changes in native vegetation communities often requires information over long time periods (multiple decades). Tropical cyclones can have a major impact on woody vegetation structure across northern Australia, however understanding the impacts on woody vegetation structure is limited. Woody vegetation structural attributes such as height are used in ecological studies to identify long term changes and trends. LiDAR has been used to measure woody vegetation structure, however LiDAR datasets cover relatively small areas and historical coverage is restricted, limiting the use of this technology for monitoring long-term change. The Landsat archive spans multiple decades and is suitable for regional/continental assessment. Advances in predictive modelling using machine learning algorithms have enabled complex relationships between dependent and independent variables to be identified. The aim of this study is to develop a predictive model to estimate woody vegetation height from Landsat imagery to assist in understanding change through space and time. A LiDAR canopy height model was produced covering a range of vegetation communities in northern Australia (Darwin region) for use as the dependent variable. A random forest regression model was developed to predict mean LiDAR canopy height (30 m spatial resolution) from Landsat-5 Thematic Mapper (TM). Validation of the random forest model was undertaken on independent data (n = 30,500) resulting in an overall R2 = 0.53, RMSE of 2.8 m. Assessment of the RMSE within four broad vegetation communities ranged from 2.5 to 3.7 m with the two dominant communities in the study area Mangrove forests and Eucalyptus communities recording an RMSE value of 2.9 m and 2.5 m respectively. The model was also applied to Landsat-7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) resulting in an R2 of 0.49, RMSE of 2.8 m. The model was then applied to all cloud free Landsat-5 TM, Landsat-7 ETM+ and Landsat-8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) imagery (106/69 path/row) available between the months April, May and June for 1987 to 2016 to produce annual estimates (29 years) of canopy height. A number of time traces were produced to illustrate tree canopy height through time in the Darwin region which was severely impacted by cyclone (hurricane) Tracy on the 25th December 1974.


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International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation








School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


Elsevier BV

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© 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Assessment and management of freshwater ecosystems

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