Long Wavelength SAR Backscatter Modelling Trends as a Consequence of the Emergent Properties of Tree Populations

Matthew Brolly, I.H. Woodhouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study describes the novel use of a macroecological plant and forest structure model in conjunction with a Radiative Transfer (RT) model to better understand interactions between microwaves and forest canopies. Trends predicted by the RT model, resulting from interactions with mixed age, mono and multi species forests, are analysed in comparison to those predicted using a simplistic structure based scattering model. This model relates backscatter to scatterer cross sectional or volume specifications, dependent on the size. The Spatially Explicit Reiterative Algorithm (SERA) model is used to provide a widely varied tree size distribution while maintaining allometric consistency to produce a natural-like forest representation. The RT model is parameterised using structural information from SERA and microwave backscatter simulations are used to analyse the impact of changes to the forest stand. Results show that the slope of the saturation curve observed in the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) backscatter-biomass relationship is sensitive to thinning and therefore forest basal area. Due to similarities displayed between the results of the RT and simplistic model, it is determined that forest SAR backscatter behaviour at long microwave wavelengths may be described generally using equations related to total stem volume and basal area. The nature of these equations is such that they describe saturating behaviour of forests in the absence of attenuation in comparable fashion to the trends exhibited using the RT model. Both modelled backscatter trends predict a relationship to forest basal area from an early age when forest volume is increasing. When this is not the case, it is assumed to be a result of attenuation of the dominant stem-ground interaction due to the presence of excessive numbers of stems. This work shows how forest growth models can be successfully incorporated into existing independent scattering models and reveals, through the RT comparison with simplistic backscatter calculations, that saturation need not solely be a direct result of attenuation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7081-1709
Number of pages1709
JournalRemote Sensing
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

© 2014 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).


  • vegetation modelling
  • forest growth
  • Synthetic Aperture Radar
  • biomass
  • vertical structure
  • macroecology


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