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In Frontiers in plant science

Normally, forest quality (FQ) and site quality (SQ) play an important role in evaluating actual and potential forest productivity. Traditionally, these assessment indices (FQ and SQ) are mainly based on forest parameters extracted from ground measurement (forest height, age, density, forest stem volume (FSV), and DBH), which is labor-intensive and difficult to access in certain remote forest areas. Recently, remote sensing images combined with a small number of samples were gradually applied to map forest parameters because of the various advantages of remote sensing technology, such as low cost, spatial coverage, and high efficiency. However, FQ and SQ related to forest parameters are rarely estimated using remote sensing images and machine learning models. In this study, the Sentinel images and ground samples of planted Chinese fir forest located in the ecological "green-core" area of Changzhutan urban cluster, were initially employed to explore the feasibility of mapping the FQ and SQ. And then, four types of alternative variables (backscattering coefficients (VV and VH), multi-spectral bands, vegetation indices, and texture characteristics) were extracted from Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-2A images, respectively. After selecting variables using a stepwise regression model, three machine learning models (SVR, RF, and KNN) were employed to estimate various forest parameters. Finally, the FQ of the study region was directly mapped by the weights sum of related factors extracted by the factor analysis method, and the SQ was also extracted using mapped forest height and age. The results illustrated that the accuracy of estimated forest parameters (DBH, H, and Age) was significantly higher than FSV, FCC, and Age and the largest and smallest rRMSEs were observed from FSV (0.38~0.40) and forest height (0.20~0.21), respectively. Using mapped forest parameters, it also resulted that the rRMSEs of estimated FQ and SQ were 0.19 and 0.15, respectively. Furthermore, after normalization and grading, the grades of forest quality were mainly concentrated in grades I, II, and III in the study region. Though the accuracy of mapping FQ and SQ is limited by the saturation phenomenon, it is significantly proved that using machine learning models and Sentinel images has great potential to indirectly map FQ and SQ.

Tang Chongjian, Ye Zilin, Long Jiangping, Liu Zhaohua, Zhang Tingchen, Xu Xiaodong, Lin Hui


forest quality, machine learning, planted Chinese fir forest, sentinel, site quality