iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Seeing trees from space: above-ground biomass estimates of intact and degraded montane rainforests from high-resolution optical imagery

Mui-How Phua (1)   , Zia-Yiing Ling (1), David Anthony Coomes (2), Wilson Wong (1), Alexius Korom (1), Satoshi Tsuyuki (3), Keiko Ioki (1), Yasumasa Hirata (4), Hideki Saito (4), Gen Takao (4)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 10, Issue 3, Pages 625-634 (2017)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor2204-010
Published: Jun 01, 2017 - Copyright © 2017 SISEF

Research Articles

Accurately quantifying the above-ground carbon stock of tropical rainforest trees is the core component of “Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation-plus” (REDD+) projects and is important for evaluating the effects of anthropogenic global change. We used high-resolution optical imagery (IKONOS-2) to identify individual tree crowns in intact and degraded rainforests in the mountains of Northern Borneo, comparing our results with 50 ground-based plots dispersed in intact and degraded forests, within which all stems > 10 cm in diameter were measured and identified to species or genus. We used the dimensions of tree crowns detected in the imagery to estimate above-ground biomasses (AGBs) of individual trees and plots. To this purpose, preprocessed IKONOS imagery was segmented using a watershed algorithm; stem diameter values were then estimated from the cross-sectional crown areas of these trees using regression relationships obtained from ground-based measurements. Finally, we calculated the biomass of each tree (AGBT, in kg), and the AGB of plots by summation (AGBP, in Mg ha-1). Remotely sensed estimates of mean AGBT were similar to ground-based estimates in intact and degraded forests, even though small trees could not be detected from space-borne sensors. The intact and degraded forests not only had different AGB but were also dissimilar in biodiversity. A tree-centric approach to carbon mapping based on high-resolution optical imagery, could be a cheap alternative to airborne laser-scanning.


Biomass Estimation, Crown Area, IKONOS-2, Tree Community Similarity, Sabah

Authors’ address

Mui-How Phua
Zia-Yiing Ling
Wilson Wong
Alexius Korom
Keiko Ioki
Faculty of Science and Natural Resources, University of Malaysia Sabah, Jalan UMS, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (Malaysia)
David Anthony Coomes
Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3EA (UK)
Satoshi Tsuyuki
Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 1-1-1 Yayoi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8567 (Japan)
Yasumasa Hirata
Hideki Saito
Gen Takao
Forest and Forest Products Research Institute, Matsunosato 1, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8687 (Japan)

Corresponding author

Mui-How Phua


Phua M-H, Ling Z-Y, Coomes DA, Wong W, Korom A, Tsuyuki S, Ioki K, Hirata Y, Saito H, Takao G (2017). Seeing trees from space: above-ground biomass estimates of intact and degraded montane rainforests from high-resolution optical imagery. iForest 10: 625-634. - doi: 10.3832/ifor2204-010

Academic Editor

Davide Travaglini

Paper history

Received: Aug 22, 2016
Accepted: May 04, 2017

First online: Jun 01, 2017
Publication Date: Jun 30, 2017
Publication Time: 0.93 months

Breakdown by View Type

(Waiting for server response...)

Article Usage

Total Article Views: 18947
(from publication date up to now)

Breakdown by View Type
HTML Page Views: 13497
Abstract Page Views: 722
PDF Downloads: 3589
Citation/Reference Downloads: 41
XML Downloads: 1098

Web Metrics
Days since publication: 2571
Overall contacts: 18947
Avg. contacts per week: 51.59

Article Citations

Article citations are based on data periodically collected from the Clarivate Web of Science web site
(last update: Nov 2020)

Total number of cites (since 2017): 2
Average cites per year: 0.50


Publication Metrics

by Dimensions ©

Articles citing this article

List of the papers citing this article based on CrossRef Cited-by.

Aiba S, Kitayama K (1999)
Structure, composition and species diversity in an altitude-substrate matrix of rain forest tree communities on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo. Plant Ecology 140: 139-157.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Anderson MJ (2001)
A new method for non-parametric multivariate analysis of variance. Austral Ecology 26: 32-46.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Asner GP (2002)
Estimating canopy structure in an Amazon forest from laser finder and IKONOS satellite observations. Biotropica 34: 483-492.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Asner GP, Warner AS (2003)
Canopy shadow in IKONOS satellite observations of tropical forests and savannas. Remote Sensing of Environment 87: 521-533.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Asner GP, Powell GV, Mascaro J, Knapp DE, Clark JK, Jacobson J, Kennedy-Bowdoin T, Balaji A, Paez-Acosta G, Victoria E, Secada L, Valqui M, Hughes RF (2010)
High-resolution forest carbon stocks and emissions in the Amazon. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 107: 16738-16742.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Asner GP, Mascaro J (2014)
Mapping tropical forest carbon: calibrating plot estimates to a simple LiDAR metric. Remote Sensing of Environment 140: 614-624.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Bartelink HH (1996)
Allometric relationship on biomass and needle of Douglas-fir. Forest Ecology and Management 86: 193-203.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Basuki TM, Van Laake PE, Skidmore AK, Hussin YA (2009)
Allometric equations for estimating the above-ground biomass in tropical lowland Dipterocarp forests. Forest Ecology and Management 257: 1684-1694.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Broadbent EN, Asner GP, Pena-Claros M, Palace M, Soriano M (2008)
Spatial portioning of biomass and diversity in a lowland Bolivian forest: linking field and remote sensing measurements. Forest Ecology and Management 255: 2602-2616.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Broich M, Hansen MC, Potapov PV, Wimberley M (2013)
Patterns of tree cover loss along the Indonesia-Malaysia border on Borneo. International Journal of Remote Sensing 34 (16): 5748-5760.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Brown S (2002)
Measuring carbon in forests: current status and future challenges. Environmental Pollution 116: 363-372.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Chao A, Chazdon RL, Colwell RK, Shen TJ (2005)
A new statistical approach for assessing similarity of species composition with incidence and abundance data. Ecology Letters 8: 148-159.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Chave J, Réjou-Méchain M, Búrquez A, Chidumayo E, Colgan MS, Delitti WBC, Duque A, Eid T, Fearnside PM, Goodman RC, Henry M, Martínez-Yrízar A, Mugasha WA, Muller-Landau HC, Mencuccini M, Nelson BW, Ngomanda A, Nogueira EM, Ortiz-Malavassi E, Pélissier R, Ploton P, Ryan CM, Saldarriaga JG, Vieilledent G (2014)
Improved allometric models to estimate the aboveground biomass of tropical trees. Global Change Biology 20: 3177-3190.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Chavez PS (1988)
An improved dark object subtraction technique for atmospheric scattering correction of multispectral data. Remote Sensing of Environment 24: 459-479.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Clinton N, Holt A, Scarborough J, Li Y, Peng G (2010)
Accuracy assessment measures for object-based image segmentation goodness. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 76: 289-299.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Culvenor DS (2003)
Extracting individual tree information: a survey of techniques for high spatial resolution imagery. In: “Forest Environments: Concepts and Case Studies” (Wulder MA, Franklin SE eds). Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, MA, USA, pp. 255-277.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Dalponte M, Coomes DA (2016)
Tree-centric mapping of forest carbon density from airborne laser scanning and hyperspectral data. Methods in Ecology and Evolution.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Dickson B, Kapos V (2012)
Biodiversity monitoring for REDD+. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 4: 590-596.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Gardner TA, Burgess ND, Aguilar-Amuchastegui N, Barlow J, Berenguer E, Clements T, Danielsen F, Ferreira J, Foden W, Lees AC, Roman-Cuesta RM, Parry L, Schmitt CB, Strange N, Khan SM, Theilade I, Vieira ICG (2012)
A framework for integrating biodiversity concerns into national REDD+ programmes. Biological Conservation 154: 61-71.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Gaveau DLA, Sloan S, Molidena E, Yaen H, Sheil D, Abram NK, Ancrenaz M, Nasi R, Quinones M, Wielaard N, Meijaard E (2014)
Four decades of forest persistence, clearance and logging on Borneo. PLoS ONE 9 (7): e101654.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Gougeon FA, Leckie DG (2006)
The individual tree crown approach applied to Ikonos images of a coniferous plantation area. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 72: 1287-1297.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Hirata Y, Tsubota Y, Sakai A (2009)
Allometric models of DBH and crown area derived from QuickBird panchromatic data in Cryptomeria japonica and Chamaecyparis obtuse stands. International Journal of Remote Sensing 30: 5071-5088.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Imai N, Seino T, Aiba S, Takyu M, Titin J, Kitayama K (2012)
Effects of selective logging on tree species diversity and composition of Bornean tropical rain forests at different spatial scales. Plant Ecology 213: 1413-1424.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Imai N, Tanaka A, Samejima H, Sugau JB, Pereira JT, Titin J, Kurniawan Y, Kitayama K (2014)
Tree community composition as an indicator in biodiversity monitoring of REDD+. Forest Ecology and Management 313: 169-179.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Ioki K, Tsuyuki S, Hirata Y, Phua MH, Wong W, Ling ZY, Saito H, Takao G (2014)
Estimating aboveground biomass of tropical rainforest of different degradation levels in Northern Borneo using airborne lidar. Forest Ecology and Management 328: 335-341.
CrossRef | Gscholar
IPCC (2006)
IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Japan, pp. 20.
Kenzo T, Ichie T, Hattori D, Itioka T, Handa C, Ohkubo T, Kendawang JJ, Nakamura M, Sakaguchi M, Takahashi N, Okamoto M, Tanaka-Oda A, Sakurai K, Ninomiya I (2009)
Development of allometric relationships for accurate estimation of above-ground biomass in tropical secondary forests in Sarawak, Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Ecology 25: 371-386.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Langner A, Samejima H, Ong RC, Titin J, Kitayama K (2012)
Integration of carbon conservation into sustainable forest management using high resolution satellite imagery: a case study in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation 18: 305-312.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Le Quere C, Raupach MR, Canadell JG, Marland G, Bopp L, Ciais P, Conway TJ, Doney SC, Feely RA, Foster PN, Friedlingstein P, Gurney K, Houghton RA, House JI, Huntingford C, Levy PE, Lomas MR, Majkut J, Metzl N, Ometto JP, Peters GP, Prentice IC, Randerson JT, Running SW, Sarmiento JL, Schuster U, Sitch S, Takahashi T, Viovy N, Van Der Werf GR, Woodward FI (2009)
Trends in the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide. Nature Geoscience 2: 831-836.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Leckie DG, Gougeon FA, Walsworth N, Paradine D (2003)
Stand delineation and composition estimation using semi-automated individual tree crown analysis. Remote Sensing of Environment 85: 355-369.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Leckie DG, Gougeon FA, Tinis S, Nelson T, Burnett CN, Dennis P (2005)
Automated tree recognition in old growth conifer stands with high resolution digital imagery. Remote Sensing of Environment 94: 311-326.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Lu D (2005)
Aboveground biomass estimation using Landsat TM data in the Brazilian Amazon. International Journal of Remote Sensing 26: 2509-2525.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Malhi Y, Grace J (2000)
Tropical forests and atmospheric carbon dioxide. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15: 332-337.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Morel AC, Fisher JB, Malhi Y (2012)
Evaluating the potential to monitor aboveground biomass in forest and oil palm in Sabah, Malaysia, for 2000-2008 with Landsat ETM+ and ALOS-Palsar. International Journal of Remote Sensing 33: 3614-3639.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Murray JP, Grenyer R, Wunder S, Raes N, Jones JPG (2015)
Spatial patterns of carbon, biodiversity, and REDD+ projects in Indonesia. Conservation Biology 29: 1434-1445.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Oksanen J, Blanchet FG, Kindt R, Legendre P, Minchin PR, O’Hara RB, Simpson GL, Solymos P, Stevens MHH, Wagner H (2013)
Vegan: community ecology package. Web site.
Online | Gscholar
Palace M, Keller M, Asner GP, Hagen S, Braswell B (2008)
Amazon forest structure from IKONOS satellite data and the automated characterization of forest canopy properties. Biotropica 40: 141-150.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Pitkanen J (2001)
Individual tree crown detection in digital aerial images by combining locally adaptive binarization and local maxima methods. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 31 (5): 832-844.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Phua MH, Saito H (2003)
Estimation of biomass of a mountainous tropical forest using Landsat TM data. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing 29: 429-440.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Phua MH, Ling ZY, Wong W, Korom A, Ahmad B, Besar NA, Tsuyuki S, Ioki K, Hoshimoto K, Hirata Y, Saito H, Takao G (2014)
Estimation of above-ground biomass of a tropical forest in northern Borneo using high-resolution satellite image. Journal of Forest and Environmental Science 30: 233-242.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Pouliot D, King D (2005)
Approaches for optimal automated individual tree crown detection in regenerating coniferous forests. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing 31: 255-267.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Skidmore AK, Pettorelli N, Coops NC, Geller GN, Hansen M, Lucas R, Mücher CA, O’Connor B, Paganini M, Pereira HM, Schaepman ME, Turner W, Wang T, Wegmann M (2015)
Environmental science: agree on biodiversity metrics to track from space. Nature 523 (7561): 403-405.
Online | Gscholar
Sheil D, Burslem DFRP (2003)
Disturbing hypotheses in tropical forests. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 18: 18-26.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Smith JA, Lin TL, Ranson KJ (1980)
The Lambertian assumption and Landsat data. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 46: 1183-1189.
Online | Gscholar
Song C, Dickinson MB, Su L, Yaussey D (2010)
Estimating average tree crown size using spatial information from IKONOS and Quickbird images: across sensor and across-site comparisons. Remote Sensing of Environment 114: 1099-1107.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Stern N (2007)
The economics of climate change: the Stern review. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 712.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Su JC, Debinski DM, Jakubauskas ME, Kindscher K (2004)
Beyond species richness: community similarity as a measure of cross-taxon congruence for coarse-filter conservation. Conservation Biology 18: 167-173.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Vermote EF, El-Saleous N, Justice CO, Kaufman YJ, Privette JL (1997)
Atmospheric correction of visible to middle-infrared EOS-MODIS data over land surfaces: background, operational algorithm, and validation. Journal of Geophysical Research 102: 17131-17141.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Visseren-Hamakers I, McDermott C, Vijge M, Cashore B (2012)
Trade-offs, co-benefits and safeguards: current debates on the breadth of REDD+. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 4: 590-596.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Wulder MA, White JC, Niemann KO, Goodenough DG (2002)
Error reduction methods for local maximum filtering of high spatial resolution imagery for locating trees. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing 28: 621-628.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Wang L, Gong P, Biging G (2004)
Individual tree crown delineation and tree top detection in high spatial resolution aerial imagery. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 70: 351-357.
CrossRef | Gscholar
Yamakura T, Hagihara A, Sukardjo S, Ogawa H (1986)
Aboveground biomass of tropical rain forest stands in Indonesian Borneo. Vegetatio 68: 71-82.
Online | Gscholar
Zanne AE, Lopez-Gonzalez G, Coomes DA, Ilic J, Jansen S, Lewis SL, Miller RB, Swenson NG, Wiemann MC, Chave J (2009)
Data from: Towards a worldwide wood economics spectrum. Dryad Digital Repository.
CrossRef | Gscholar

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. More info