Utility of hyperspectral compared to multispectral remote sensing data in estimating forest biomass and structure variables in Finnish boreal forest

Eelis Halme, Petri Pellikka, Matti Mõttus

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    47 Citations (Scopus)


    Three-quarters of Finland’s land surface area is filled with forests, which compose a great part of the country’s biomass, carbon pools and carbon sinks. In order to acquire up-to-date information on the forests, optical remote sensing techniques are commonly used. Moreover, in the future hyperspectral satellite missions will start providing data to support the needs of natural resource management practices, such as forestry. It is, however, unclear what would be the additional value from using hyperspectral data compared to multispectral in quantifying forest variables of Finnish boreal forest. In this study, we used the remote sensing data by hyperspectral AISA imager (128 bands, 400–1000 nm, resolution 0.7 m) and Sentinel-2 (10 bands, resolution 10 m) to assess the possible benefits of higher spectral resolution. As reference data, we used a new nationwide forest resource dataset (stand-level data), which has a high potential in further remote sensing applications. In addition, we used a set of independent in situ measurements (plot-level data) for validation. We applied two kernel-based machine learning regression algorithms (Gaussian process and support vector regression) to relate boreal forest variables with the remote sensing data. The variables of interest were mean height, basal area, leaf area index (LAI), stem biomass and main tree species. The regression algorithms were trained with stand-level data and estimations were evaluated with stand- and plot-level holdout sets. The estimation accuracies were examined with absolute and relative root-mean-square errors. Successful variable estimations showed that kernel-based regression algorithms are suitable tools for forest structure estimation. Based on the results, the additional value of hyperspectral remote sensing data in forest variable estimation in Finnish boreal forest is mainly related to variables with species-specific information, such as main tree species and LAI. The more interesting variables for forestry industry, such as mean height, basal area and stem biomass, can also be estimated accurately with more traditional multispectral remote sensing data.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number101942
    JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2019
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Hyperspectral imaging
    • Sentinel-2
    • Forest structure variables
    • Machine learning
    • Support vector regression
    • Gaussian process regression


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