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Biogeosciences Discuss., 11, 5711-5742, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Review Status
This discussion paper is under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).
Local spatial structure of forest biomass and its consequences for remote sensing of carbon stocks
M. Réjou-Méchain1, H. C. Muller-Landau2, M. Detto2, S. C. Thomas3, T. Le Toan4, S. S. Saatchi5, J. S. Barreto-Silva6, N. A. Bourg7, S. Bunyavejchewin8, N. Butt9,10, W. Y. Brockelman11, M. Cao12, D. Cárdenas13, J.-M. Chiang14, G. B. Chuyong15, K. Clay16, R. Condit2, H. S. Dattaraja17, S. J. Davies18, A. Duque19, S. Esufali20, C. Ewango21, R. H. S. Fernando22, C. D. Fletcher23, I. A. U. N. Gunatilleke20, Z. Hao24, K. E. Harms25, T. B. Hart26, B. Hérault27, R. W. Howe28, S. P. Hubbell2,29, D. J. Johnson16, D. Kenfack30, A. J. Larson31, L. Lin12, Y. Lin14, J. A. Lutz32, J.-R. Makana33, Y. Malhi9, T. R. Marthews9, R. W. McEwan34, S. M. McMahon35, W. J. McShea7, R. Muscarella36, A. Nathalang11, N. S. M. Noor23, C. J. Nytch37, A. A. Oliveira38, R. P. Phillips16, N. Pongpattananurak39, R. Punchi-Manage40, R. Salim23, J. Schurman3, R. Sukumar17, H. S. Suresh17, U. Suwanvecho11, D. W. Thomas41, J. Thompson36,42, M. Uríarte36, R. Valencia43, A. Vicentini44, A. T. Wolf28, S. Yap45, Z. Yuan24, C. E. Zartman44, J. K. Zimmerman37, and J. Chave1
1Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, UMR 5174 CNRS, Université Paul Sabatier, 31062 Toulouse, France
2Smithsonian Tropical Resource Institute, Apartado Postal 0843-03092 Balboa, Ancon, Panama
3University of Toronto, Faculty of Forestry, Toronto, Canada
4Centre d'Etudes Spatiales de la Biosphère, UMR 5126 CNRS, CNES, Université Paul Sabatier, IRD, 31401 Toulouse, France
5Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
6Instituto Amazónico de Investigaciones Científicas SINCHI, Avenida Vásquez Cobo entre calles 15 y 16, Leticia, Amazonas, Colombia
7Conservation Ecology Center Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute National Zoological Park 1500 Remount Rd., Front Royal, VA 22630, USA
8National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, Research Office, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand
9Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
10ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, 4072, Australia
11Ecology Lab, Bioresources Technology Unit, 113 Science Park, Paholyothin Road, Khlong 1, Khlongluang, Pathum Thani 12120, Thailand
12Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650223, China
13Instituto Amazónico de Investigaciones Científicas SINCHI. Calle 20 No. 5–44. Bogotá Colombia
14Department of Life Science, Tunghai University, Taichung 40704, Taiwan
15Department of Plant and Animal Sciences, University of Buea, P.O. Box 63, Buea, Cameroon
16Department of Biology, Indiana University, Jordan Hall, 1001 East Third Street, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA
17Center for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560012, India
18Center for Tropical Forest Science, Smithsonian Institution Global Earth Observatory, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, P.O. Box 37012, Washington, DC 20012, USA
19Departamento de Ciencias Forestales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín, Calle 59A No 63-20, Medellín, Colombia
20Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
21Centre de Formation et de Recherche en Conservation Forestière (CEFRECOF), Wildlife Conservation Society, Kinshasa, DR Congo
22Royal Botanical Garden, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
23Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), 52109 Kepong, Selangor, Malaysia
24State Key Laboratory of Forest and Soil Ecology, Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang 110164, China
25Department of Biological Sciences, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
26Project TL2, Kinshasa, DR Congo
27Cirad, UMR Ecologie des Forêts de Guyane (EcoFoG), Campus Agronomique, BP701, 97310 Kourou, French Guiana
28Department of Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, WI 54311, USA
29Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
30CTFS-Arnold Arboretum Office, Harvard University, 22 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
31Department of Forest Management, College of Forestry and Conservation, The University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA
32Wildland Resources Department, Utah State University, 5230 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-5230, USA
33Wildlife Conservation Society – DRC Program, Kinshasa, DR Congo
34Department of Biology, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH 45469-2320, USA
35Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute & Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, Maryland, USA
36Department of Ecology, Evolution & Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
37Department of Environmental Science, University of Puerto Rico, Box 70377, Rio Piedras, San Juan, 00936-8377, Puerto Rico
38Departamento de Ecologia, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de São Paulo, 04582050 São Paulo, Brazil
39Department of Conservation, Faculty of Forestry, Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand
40Department of Ecosystem & Modelling, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
41Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
42Centre for Ecology Hydrology, Edinburgh, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Midlothian, Scotland EH26 0QB, UK
43Escuela de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Apartado 17-01-2184, Quito, Ecuador
44Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Manaus, AM, Brazil
45Institute of Biology University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City 1101, Philippines

Abstract. Advances in forest carbon mapping have the potential to greatly reduce uncertainties in the global carbon budget and to facilitate effective emissions mitigation strategies such as REDD+. Though broad scale mapping is based primarily on remote sensing data, the accuracy of resulting forest carbon stock estimates depends critically on the quality of field measurements and calibration procedures. The mismatch in spatial scales between field inventory plots and larger pixels of current and planned remote sensing products for forest biomass mapping is of particular concern, as it has the potential to introduce errors, especially if forest biomass shows strong local spatial variation. Here, we used 30 large (8–50 ha) globally distributed permanent forest plots to quantify the spatial variability in aboveground biomass (AGB) at spatial grains ranging from 5 to 250 m (0.025–6.25 ha), and we evaluate the implications of this variability for calibrating remote sensing products using simulated remote sensing footprints. We found that the spatial sampling error in AGB is large for standard plot sizes, averaging 46.3% for 0.1 ha subplots and 16.6% for 1 ha subplots. Topographically heterogeneous sites showed positive spatial autocorrelation in AGB at scales of 100 m and above; at smaller scales, most study sites showed negative or nonexistent spatial autocorrelation in AGB. We further show that when field calibration plots are smaller than the remote sensing pixels, the high local spatial variability in AGB leads to a substantial "dilution" bias in calibration parameters, a bias that cannot be removed with current statistical methods. Overall, our results suggest that topography should be explicitly accounted for in future sampling strategies and that much care must be taken in designing calibration schemes if remote sensing of forest carbon is to achieve its promise.

Citation: Réjou-Méchain, M., Muller-Landau, H. C., Detto, M., Thomas, S. C., Le Toan, T., Saatchi, S. S., Barreto-Silva, J. S., Bourg, N. A., Bunyavejchewin, S., Butt, N., Brockelman, W. Y., Cao, M., Cárdenas, D., Chiang, J.-M., Chuyong, G. B., Clay, K., Condit, R., Dattaraja, H. S., Davies, S. J., Duque, A., Esufali, S., Ewango, C., Fernando, R. H. S., Fletcher, C. D., Gunatilleke, I. A. U. N., Hao, Z., Harms, K. E., Hart, T. B., Hérault, B., Howe, R. W., Hubbell, S. P., Johnson, D. J., Kenfack, D., Larson, A. J., Lin, L., Lin, Y., Lutz, J. A., Makana, J.-R., Malhi, Y., Marthews, T. R., McEwan, R. W., McMahon, S. M., McShea, W. J., Muscarella, R., Nathalang, A., Noor, N. S. M., Nytch, C. J., Oliveira, A. A., Phillips, R. P., Pongpattananurak, N., Punchi-Manage, R., Salim, R., Schurman, J., Sukumar, R., Suresh, H. S., Suwanvecho, U., Thomas, D. W., Thompson, J., Uríarte, M., Valencia, R., Vicentini, A., Wolf, A. T., Yap, S., Yuan, Z., Zartman, C. E., Zimmerman, J. K., and Chave, J.: Local spatial structure of forest biomass and its consequences for remote sensing of carbon stocks, Biogeosciences Discuss., 11, 5711-5742, doi:10.5194/bgd-11-5711-2014, 2014.
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