Mapping tree distribution and LAI in peatlands using field methods and imaging spectroscopy: a case study for the Haaksbergerveen, the Netherlands

Mohammedshum, A.A.; Kooistra, L.


Leaf area index (LAI) is among the vegetation parameters that play an important role in climate, hydrological and ecological studies, and is used for assessing growth and expansion of vegetation. The main objective of this study was to develop a methodology to map the LAI distribution of birch trees (Betula pendula) in peatland ecosystems using field-based instruments and airborne-based remote-sensing techniques. The developed mapping method was validated using field-based LAI measurements using the LAI-2000 instrument. First vegetation indices, including simple ratio (SR), normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), and reduced simple ratio (RSR), were derived from HyMap data and related to ground-based measurements of LAI. LAI related better with RSR (R2 = 0.68), followed by NDVI (R2 = 0.63) and SR (R2 = 0.58), respectively. Areas with birch were identified using Spectral Angle Mapper (SAM) to classify the image into 11 end members of dominant species including bare soil and open water. Next, the relationship between LAI and RSR was applied to areas with birch, yielding a birch LAI map. Comparison of the map of the birch trees and field-based LAI data was done using linear regression, yielding an R2 = 0.38 and an RMSE = 0.25, which is fairly accurate for a structurally highly diverse field situation. The method may prove an invaluable tool to monitor tree encroachment and assess tree LAI in these remote and poorly accessible areas.