Improving Forest Baseline Maps in Tropical Wetlands Using GEDI-Based Forest Height Information and Sentinel-1

Verhelst, Kamiel; Gou, Yaqing; Herold, Martin; Reiche, Johannes


Remote Sensing-based global Forest/Non-Forest (FNF) masks have shown large inaccuracies in tropical wetland areas. This limits their applications for deforestation monitoring and alerting in which they are used as a baseline for mapping new deforestation. In radar-based deforestation monitoring, for example, moisture dynamics in unmasked non-forest areas can lead to false detections. We combined a GEDI Forest Height product and Sentinel-1 radar data to improve FNF masks in wetland areas in Gabon using a Random Forest model. The GEDI Forest Height, together with texture metrics derived from Sentinel-1 mean backscatter values, were the most important contributors to the classification. Quantitatively, our mask outperformed existing global FNF masks by increasing the Producer’s Accuracy for the non-forest class by 14%. The GEDI Forest Height product by itself also showed high accuracies but contained Landsat artifacts. Qualitatively, our model was best able to cleanly uncover non-forest areas and mitigate the impact of Landsat artifacts in the GEDI Forest Height product. An advantage of the methodology presented here is that it can be adapted for different application needs by varying the probability threshold of the Random Forest output. This study stresses that, in any application of the suggested methodology, it is important to consider the UA/PA trade-off and the effect it has on the classification. The targeted improvements for wetland forest mapping presented in this paper can help raise the accuracy of tropical deforestation monitoring.