An unsupervised two-stage clustering approach for forest structure classification based on X-band InSAR data — A case study in complex temperate forest stands

Publication from Digital

Abdullahi Sahra, Schardt Mathias , Pretzsch Hans

International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation Volume 57, May 2017, Pages 36-48 , 5/2017


Forest structure at stand level plays a key role for sustainable forest management, since the biodiversity, productivity, growth and stability of the forest can be positively influenced by managing its structural diversity. In contrast to field-based measurements, remote sensing techniques offer a cost-efficient opportunity to collect area-wide information about forest stand structure with high spatial and temporal resolution. Especially Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), which facilitates worldwide acquisition of 3d information independent from weather conditions and illumination, is convenient to capture forest stand structure. This study purposes an unsupervised two-stage clustering approach for forest structure classification based on height information derived from interferometric X-band SAR data which was performed in complex temperate forest stands of Traunstein forest (South Germany). In particular, a four dimensional input data set composed of first-order height statistics was non-linearly projected on a two-dimensional Self-Organizing Map, spatially ordered according to similarity (based on the Euclidean distance) in the first stage and classified using the k-means algorithm in the second stage. The study demonstrated that X-band InSAR data exhibits considerable capabilities for forest structure classification. Moreover, the unsupervised classification approach achieved meaningful and reasonable results by means of comparison to aerial imagery and LiDAR data.