Challenges in estimating tropical forest canopy height from planet dove imagery

Ovidiu Csillik, Pramukta Kumar, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Monitoring tropical forests using spaceborne and airborne remote sensing capabilities is important for informing environmental policies and conservation actions. Developing large-scale machine learning estimation models of forest structure is instrumental in bridging the gap between retrospective analysis and near-real-time monitoring. However, most approaches use moderate spatial resolution satellite data with limited capabilities of frequent updating. Here, we take advantage of the high spatial and temporal resolutions of Planet Dove images and aim to automatically estimate top-of-canopy height (TCH) for the biologically diverse country of Peru from satellite imagery at 1 ha spatial resolution by building a model that associates Planet Dove textural features with airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) measurements of TCH.We use and modify features derived from Fourier textural ordination (FOTO) of Planet Dove images using spectral projection and train a gradient boosted regression for TCH estimation. We discuss the technical and scientific challenges involved in the generation of reliable mechanisms for estimating TCH from Planet Dove satellite image spectral and textural features. Our developed software toolchain is a robust and generalizable regression model that provides a root mean square error (RMSE) of 4.36 m for Peru. This represents a helpful advancement towards better monitoring of tropical forests and improves efforts in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), an important climate change mitigation approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1160
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Canopy texture
  • LiDAR
  • Machine learning
  • Peru
  • Satellite images

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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