Multi-source Remote Sensing for Forest Characterization and Monitoring

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Copyright: Zhang, Qi
As a dominant terrestrial ecosystem of the Earth, forest environments play profound roles in ecology, biodiversity, resource utilization, and management, which highlights the significance of forest characterization and monitoring. Some forest parameters can help track climate change and quantify the global carbon cycle and therefore attract growing attention from various research communities. Compared with traditional in-situ methods with expensive and time-consuming field works involved, airborne and spaceborne remote sensors collect cost-efficient and consistent observations at global or regional scales and have been proven to be an effective way for forest monitoring. With the looming paradigm shift toward data-intensive science and the development of remote sensors, remote sensing data with higher resolution and diversity have been the mainstream in data analysis and processing. However, significant heterogeneities in the multi-source remote sensing data largely restrain its forest applications urging the research community to come up with effective synergistic strategies. The work presented in this thesis contributes to the field by exploring the potential of the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), SAR Polarimetry (PolSAR), SAR Interferometry (InSAR), Polarimetric SAR Interferometry (PolInSAR), Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), and multispectral remote sensing in forest characterization and monitoring from three main aspects including forest height estimation, active fire detection, and burned area mapping. First, the forest height inversion is demonstrated using airborne L-band dual-baseline repeat-pass PolInSAR data based on modified versions of the Random Motion over Ground (RMoG) model, where the scattering attenuation and wind-derived random motion are described in conditions of homogeneous and heterogeneous volume layer, respectively. A boreal and a tropical forest test site are involved in the experiment to explore the flexibility of different models over different forest types and based on that, a leveraging strategy is proposed to boost the accuracy of forest height estimation. The accuracy of the model-based forest height inversion is limited by the discrepancy between the theoretical models and actual scenarios and exhibits a strong dependency on the system and scenario parameters. Hence, high vertical accuracy LiDAR samples are employed to assist the PolInSAR-based forest height estimation. This multi-source forest height estimation is reformulated as a pan-sharpening task aiming to generate forest heights with high spatial resolution and vertical accuracy based on the synergy of the sparse LiDAR-derived heights and the information embedded in the PolInSAR data. This process is realized by a specifically designed generative adversarial network (GAN) allowing high accuracy forest height estimation less limited by theoretical models and system parameters. Related experiments are carried out over a boreal and a tropical forest to validate the flexibility of the method. An automated active fire detection framework is proposed for the medium resolution multispectral remote sensing data. The basic part of this framework is a deep-learning-based semantic segmentation model specifically designed for active fire detection. A dataset is constructed with open-access Sentinel-2 imagery for the training and testing of the deep-learning model. The developed framework allows an automated Sentinel-2 data download, processing, and generation of the active fire detection results through time and location information provided by the user. Related performance is evaluated in terms of detection accuracy and processing efficiency. The last part of this thesis explored whether the coarse burned area products can be further improved through the synergy of multispectral, SAR, and InSAR features with higher spatial resolutions. A Siamese Self-Attention (SSA) classification is proposed for the multi-sensor burned area mapping and a multi-source dataset is constructed at the object level for the training and testing. Results are analyzed by different test sites, feature sources, and classification methods to assess the improvements achieved by the proposed method. All developed methods are validated with extensive processing of multi-source data acquired by Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR), Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor (LVIS), PolSARproSim+, Sentinel-1, and Sentinel-2. I hope these studies constitute a substantial contribution to the forest applications of multi-source remote sensing.
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
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