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Product pages » Vegetation height and structure - derived from ALOS-1 PALSAR, Landsat and ICESat/GLAS, Australia coverage

Vegetation height and structure - derived from ALOS-1 PALSAR, Landsat and ICESat/GLAS, Australia coverage

Last modified by John Armston on 2018/03/20 05:05

Vegetation height and structure - derived from ALOS-1 PALSAR, Landsat and ICESat/GLAS, Australia coverage


Figure 1: Vegetation structural classes

Link to the data

DescriptorData linkLayer name
Persistent URL
GeoNetwork record
TIFF mosaics - FTP access filenaming convention
Geoserver example

Data licence and Access rights

RightsCopyright 2010-2020. JRSRP. Rights owned by the Joint Remote Sensing Research Project (JRSRP).
LicenceCreative Common Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0
AccessWhile every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of this information, the Joint Remote Sensing Research Project (JRSRP) makes no representations or warranties about its accuracy, reliability, completeness or suitability for any particular purpose and disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages (including indirect or consequential damage) and costs which might be incurred as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way and for any reason.

Abstract or Summary

Vertical plant profiles for the Australian continent were derived through integration of ICESat GLAS waveforms with ALOS PALSAR and Landsat data products. Co-registered Landsat Foliage Projected Cover (FPC) and ALOS PALSAR L-band HH and HV mosaics were segmented to generate objects with similar radar backscatter and cover characteristics. Within these, height, cover, age class and L-band backscatter characteristics were summarised based on the ICESat and Landsat time-series and ALOS PALSAR datasets. 

Spatial and Temporal extents

Spatial resolution (metres)30
Spatial coverage (degrees)north:-6; south:-45; west:108 east:160  
Temporal resolutionSingle 2009 snapshot based on all available ICESat data between 2003 and 2009
Temporal coverage2009
Sensor & platformLandsat TM and ETM+, ALOS PALSAR-1, GLAS/ICESat
Spatial representation typegrid
Spatial reference systemAustralian Albers. EPSG:3577

Point of contact

NamePeter Scarth
OrganisationJoint Remote Sensing Research Program
PositionPrincipal Scientist
AddressRemote Sensing Centre, DSITI, EcoSciences Precinct
Telephone+61 7 3170 5678


  • Joint Remote Sensing Research Program.
  • The Australian Government Australia Awards 
  • The Remote Sensing and GIS Software Library (RSGISLib)
  • Landsat 5 TM, Landsat 7 ETM+ and Landsat 8 OLI images were acquired from United States Geologic Survey.
  • NASA’s ICESat Science Project and the NSIDC for distribution of the ICESat data
  • ALOS Palsar FBD data used in this research were supplied courtesy of the Japanese Space Exploration Agency (JAXA) Kyoto and Carbon Initiative.



FoREnvironmental Sciences > Ecological Applications = 0501

There are three main thesauri that AusCover recommends:

  1. Global Change Master Directory (
  2. Climate and Forecast (CF) convention standard names (
  3. Fields of Research codes (

Data quality

Horizontal Positional Accuracy

The data described here has been registered to a USGS provided L1T ETM panchromatic baseline. It is not recommended that these data sets be used at scales more detailed than 1:100,000.

Vertical Positional Accuracy

The accuracy of the height estimates increases as the canopy density increases. A full accuracy assessment is ongoing, but indicative plots of the height accuracy as compared to airborne lidar over TERN-AusCover supersites is illustrated in the figure below.

Continental Scale Vegetation Structure Mapping Using Field Calibrated Landsat  ALOS Palsar And GLAS ICESat   Google Slides.png 

Filenaming convention

Filenames for these products conforms to the AusCover standard naming convention. The standard form of this convention is:

<satellite category code><instrument code><product code>_<where>_<when>_<processing stage code>_<additional dataset specific tags>

HEIGHT TIF PRODUCTS (percentile heights are the height where that percentage of plant material has been intercepted within a cluster, where a cluster is a group of similar segments)

alpsbk_aust_y2009_sd1a2.tif - Height where 25% of the plant cover has been intercepted (DN=decimetres+1; unsigned 16 bit; null=0)

alpsbk_aust_y2009_sd2a2.tif - Height where 50% of the plant cover has been intercepted (DN=decimetres+1; unsigned 16 bit; null=0)

alpsbk_aust_y2009_sd3a2.tif - Height where 75% of the plant cover has been intercepted (DN=decimetres+1; unsigned 16 bit; null=0)

alpsbk_aust_y2009_sd4a2.tif - Height where 95% of the plant cover has been intercepted (DN=decimetres+1; unsigned 16 bit; null=0)

alpsbk_aust_y2009_sd5a2.tif - Height of peak plant cover density (DN=decimetres+1; unsigned 16 bit; null=0)

PLANT COVER TIF PRODUCTS (Defined as 1 - gap fraction)

alpsbk_aust_y2009_se1a2.tif - Fraction of plant cover below 5m (DN=percentage*100+1; unsigned 16 bit; null=0)

alpsbk_aust_y2009_se2a2.tif - Fraction of plant cover between 5m and 10m (DN=percentage*100+1; unsigned 16 bit; null=0)

alpsbk_aust_y2009_se3a2.tif - Fraction of plant cover between 10m and 30m (DN=percentage*100+1; unsigned 16 bit; null=0)

alpsbk_aust_y2009_se4a2.tif - Fraction of plant cover above 30m (DN=percentage*100+1; unsigned 16 bit; null=0)

alpsbk_aust_y2009_se5a2.tif - Total plant cover fraction (DN=percentage*100+1; unsigned 16 bit; null=0)

STRUCTURE TIF PRODUCT (Categorical data)

alpsbk_aust_y2009_sf1a2.tif - Forest structure codes derived from alpsbk_aust_y2009_sd4a2.tif and alpsbk_aust_y2009_se5a2.tif using a version of the Walker and Hopkins (1990) structural classification

CodeStructural Formation Total plant cover fraction95th Percentile Height
  0 No Data - -
 10 No trees 0% -
 21 Low scattered trees 0% to  6%  <9m
 22 Medium scattered trees 0% to  6% 9m to 17m
 31 Low open woodland 6% to  11%<9m
 32 Medium open woodland 6% to  11% 9m to 17m
 33 Tall open woodland 6% to  11% 17m to 27m
 41 Low woodland11% to 30%  <9m
 42 Medium woodland11% to 30% 9m to 17m
 43 Tall woodland11% to 30% 17m to 27m
 44 Very tall woodland11% to 30% 27m to 57m
 51 Low open forest30% to 70% <9m
 52 Medium open forest30% to 70%9m to 17m
 53 Tall open forest30% to 70%17m to 27m
 54 Very tall open forest30% to 70%27m to 57m
 55 Extremely tall open forest30% to 70% >57m
 63 Tall closed forest >70%17m to 27m
 64 Very tall closed forest >70%27m to 57m

Related products

Persistent Green-Vegetation Fraction and Wooded Mask - Landsat, Australia coverage


ItemDetail or link
PublicationArmston, J., Scarth, P., Lucas, R., Lewis, P., Disney, M., Phinn, S. (2015). Validation of continental scale vertical plant profile mapping using waveform lidar airborne laser scanning. Silvilaser 2015, La Grande Motte, France, 28-30 September.
Publication Scarth, P., Armston, J., and Lucas, R. (2014). Continental scale forest and woodland structure mapping using Landsat, ALOS PALSAR and GLAS ICESat. ForestSAT 2014: A bridge between forest sciences, remote sensing and geospatial applications, Riva del Garda, Italy.
PublicationScarth, Peter (2012): If You Climb Up A Tree, You Must Climb Down The Same Tree. But How High Was It?.
PublicationScarth, Peter (2012): Integrating Landsat, ICESat and ALOS PALSAR for Regional Scale Vegetation Structure Assessment.
Book ChapterDanaher, T., Scarth, P., Armston, J., Collet, L., Kitchen, J., and Gillingham, S. (2010). Ecosystem Function in Savannas: Measurement and Modelling at Landscape to Global Scales. Vol. Section 3. Remote Sensing of Biophysical and Biochemical Characteristics in Savannas How different remote sensing technologies contribute to measurement and understanding of savannas. Taylor and Francis, Remote sensing of tree-grass systems: The Eastern Australian Woodlands.

Algorithm summary

ALOS PALSAR L-band Fine Beam Dual (HH and HV) polarisation data mosaics at 25 m spatial resolution, provided through the JAXA K&C Initiative, were combined with an Australian mosaic of persistent green vegetation cover derived from Landsat sensor time-series data [1]. These data were segmented to map clumps of contiguous vegetation structure and reduced to a maximum of 1000 unique classes using k-means based cluster analysis. These classes were then intersected with ICESat/GLAS L2 (Release 33) Global Land Surface Altimetry Data (GLA14) data acquired between 2003 and 2009 and obtained from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC). All GLAS laser shots were corrected for differences in footprint size, laser output power, vegetation/ground reflectance, and terrain slope. These laser shots were aggregated for each cluster and processed to mean vertical profiles of P_gap (θ,z). Vertical plant profiles were then derived and height of peak foliage density (Hpeak) and height percentiles (95th, 75th, 50th, and 25th) extracted. To produce a national map, each clump in the original segmentation was then assigned the mean vertical profile corresponding to the nearest cluster centroid.

Product version history

Version labelDetail
1.0Initial release

Metadata history

2013-11-25Metadata creation date
2014-02-19Metadata revision - algorithm updated and references added
2015-03-13Added a persistent URL
Created by Peter Scarth on 2012/03/22 15:16

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