Cui, L; Jiao, ZT; Zhao, KG; Sun, M; Dong, YD; Yin, SY; Li, Y; Chang, YX; Guo, J; Xie, R; Zhu, ZD; Li, SJ (2020). Retrieval of Vertical Foliage Profile and Leaf Area Index Using Transmitted Energy Information Derived from ICESat GLAS Data. REMOTE SENSING, 12(15), 2457.

The vertical foliage profile (VFP) and leaf area index (LAI) are critical descriptors in terrestrial ecosystem modeling. Although light detection and ranging (lidar) observations have been proven to have potential for deriving the VFP and LAI, existing methods depend only on the received waveform information and are sensitive to additional input parameters, such as the ratio of canopy to ground reflectance. In this study, we proposed a new method for retrieving forest VFP and LAI from Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) data over two sites similar in their biophysical parameters. Our method utilized the information from not only the interaction between the laser and the forest but also the sensor configuration, which brought the benefit that our method was free from an empirical input parameter. Specifically, we first derived the transmitted energy profile (TEP) through the lidar 1-D radiative transfer model. Then, the obtained TEP was utilized to calculate the vertical gap distribution. Finally, the vertical gap distribution was taken as input to derive the VFP based on the Beer-Lambert law, and the LAI was calculated by integrating the VFP. Extensive validations of our method were carried out based on the discrete anisotropic radiative transfer (DART) simulation data, ground-based measurements, and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) LAI product. The validation based on the DART simulation data showed that our method could effectively characterize the VFP and LAI under various canopy architecture scenarios, including homogeneous turbid and discrete individual-tree scenes. The ground-based validation also proved the feasibility of our method: the VFP retrieved from the GLAS data showed a similar trend with the foliage distribution density in the GLAS footprints; the GLAS LAI had a high correlation with the field measurements, with a determination coefficient (R-2) of 0.79, root mean square error (RMSE) of 0.49, and bias of 0.17. Once the outliers caused by low data quality and large slope were identified and removed, the accuracy was further improved, with R-2= 0.85, RMSE = 0.35, and bias = 0.10. However, the MODIS LAI product did not present a good relationship with the GLAS LAI. Relative to the GLAS LAI, the MODIS LAI showed an overestimation in the low and middle ranges of the LAI and a saturation at high values of approximately LAI = 5.5. Overall, this method has the potential to produce continental- and global-scale VFP and LAI datasets from the spaceborne lidar system.