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Global application of an unoccupied aerial vehicle photogrammetry protocol for predicting aboveground biomass in non-forest ecosystems

Cunliffe, A., Anderson, K., Boschetti, F., Brazier, R., Graham, H., Myers-Smith, I., Astor, T., Boer, M., Calvo, L., Clark, P., Cramer, M., Encinas-Lara, M., Escarzaga, S., Fernández-Guisuraga, J., Fisher, A., Gdulová, K., Gillespie, B., Griebel, A., Hanan, N., Hanggito, M., Haselberger, S., Havrilla, C., Heilman, P., Ji, W., Karl, J., Kirchhoff, M., Kraushaar, S., Lyons, M., Marzolff, I., Mauritz, M., McIntire, C., Metzen, D., Méndez-Barroso, L., Power, S., Prošek, J., Sanz-Ablanedo, E., Sauer, K., Schulze-Brüninghoff, D., Šímová, P., Sitch, S., Smit, J., Steele, C., Suárez-Seoane, S., Vargas, S., Villarreal, M., Visser, Fleur ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6042-9341, Wachendorf, M., Wirnsberger, H. and Wojcikiewicz, R. (2021) Global application of an unoccupied aerial vehicle photogrammetry protocol for predicting aboveground biomass in non-forest ecosystems. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation. ISSN Electronic: 2056-3485

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Abstract

Non-forest ecosystems, dominated by shrubs, grasses and herbaceous plants, provide ecosystem services including carbon sequestration and forage for grazing, and are highly sensitive to climatic changes. Yet these ecosystems are poorly represented in remotely sensed biomass products and are undersampled by in-situ monitoring. Current global change threats emphasise the need for new tools to capture biomass change in non-forest ecosystems at appropriate scales. Here we developed and deployed a new protocol for drone-based photogrammetric height estimates to test its capability for delivering standardised measurements of biomass across a globally-distributed field experiment. We assessed whether canopy height inferred from drone photogrammetry allows the prediction of aboveground biomass (AGB) across low-stature plant species by conducting 38 photogrammetric surveys over 741 harvested plots to sample 50 species. We found mean canopy height was strongly predictive of AGB across species, with median adjusted R2 of 0.87 (ranging from 0.46 to 0.99) and median prediction error from leave-one-out cross-validation of 3.9%. Biomass per-unit-of-height was similar within but different among, plant functional types. We found that photogrammetric reconstructions of canopy height were sensitive to wind speed but not sun elevation during surveys. We demonstrated that our photogrammetric approach produced generalisable measurements across growth forms and environmental settings and yielded accuracies as good as those obtained from in situ approaches. We demonstrate that using a standardised approach for drone photogrammetry can deliver accurate AGB estimates across a wide range of dynamic and heterogeneous ecosystems. Many academic and land management institutions have the technical capacity to deploy these approaches over extents of 1-10 ha-1. Photogrammetric approaches could provide much-needed information required to calibrate and validate the vegetation models and satellite-derived biomass products that are essential to understand vulnerable and understudied non-forested ecosystems around the globe.

Item Type: Article
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Copyright 2021. The Authors. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Zoological Society of London. This is an open access article under the term s of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

A pdf file of this article is available to download from this WRaP record.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: canopy height model, drone, fine spatial resolution remote sensing, plant height, structure-from-motion photogrammetry, UAV
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GA Mathematical geography. Cartography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Divisions: College of Health, Life and Environmental Sciences > School of Science and the Environment
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Copyright Info: Open Access article
Depositing User: Fleur Visser
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2021 10:59
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2021 12:52
URI: https://eprints.worc.ac.uk/id/eprint/10590

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