Project: Multi-frequency RADAR imaging for the analysis of tropical forest structure in the Amazon.

Principal Investigators:

  • Dr. Polyanna da Conceição Bispo (University of Leicester)
  • Dr. Heiko Balzter (University of Leicester)


  • Dr. Kevin Tansey (University of Leicester)
  • Dr. Booker Ogutu (University of Southampton)
  • Dr. Kostas Papathanassiou  (DLR)
  • Dr. Yadvinder Malhi (University of Oxford)
  • Dr. Frank Martin (ESA)
  • Dr. Joao Roberto dos Santos (INPE)
  • Dr. Marcio de Morisson Valeriano (INPE)

Funding: This project is supported by European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 660020.

The tropical rainforests of the Amazon basin are one of the world’s areas that are richest in biodiversity. They cover the largest terrestrial tropical biome in the world and store significant amounts of carbon and stabilise the regional and global climate. Deforestation, forest degradation and climate change impacts are posing a threat to the future of this unique region.

This project will develop a systematic integration of geomorphometry methods with satellite remote sensing techniques from Synthetic Aperture Radar to study the floristic-structural associations in the tropical forest of the Amazon, map disturbances and degradation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preserve floristic diversity.

The plant typology and forest dynamics in tropical forest are much more complex than in other forest types. In the Amazonian forest, the evolutionary history of the landscape has culminated in the current multiplicity of environments with high diversity, richness and abundance of species. This region is constituted by a mosaic of habitats, with different vegetation types occurring in adjacent areas above different substrates . The distribution of tree species and their forest structure in the Amazon is related to the diversity of ecological niches according to the ecophysiological preferences of each species . Among the principal parameters that describe the forest structure are the diameter height breast, height, canopy openness and biomass. These parameters are essential for understanding the carbon cycle, aiding in sustainable management, assisting conservation and environmental planning and reducing biodiversity loss.

This fellowship will focus on the development, implementation and demonstration of a multi-frequency RADAR method for mapping different structural forest variables, as well as on the floristic composition to provide accurate spatially explicit information to the global carbon cycle research in tropical regions.

This project will provide a step-change in the capability for vegetation monitoring of the tropics. It will advance the state of the art by developing innovative mapping and monitoring and estimating vegetation structural parameters based on the synergy among different data sources, also of fundamental importance in the context of evolving carbon markets for REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation).

The main research goal of this project is to develop a methodology to derive information on forest structure and floristics based on the / polarimetric and interferometric variables from TanDEM-X (X band), PALSAR/ALOS (L band), Sentinel 1 (C band) integrated with geomorphometric data derived from SRTM (C band) to benefit the monitoring of forest communities, estimates of biomass and carbon stock to understand the carbon biogeochemical cycling in tropical forests which is essential in the context of global climate change.

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