Estimation and mapping of above-ground biomass of mangrove forests and their replacement land uses in the Philippines using Sentinel imagery

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The recent launch of the Sentinel-1 (SAR) and Sentinel-2 (multispectral) missions offers a new opportunity for land-based biomass mapping and monitoring especially in the tropics where deforestation is highest. Yet, unlike in agriculture and inland land uses, the use of Sentinel imagery has not been evaluated for biomass retrieval in mangrove forest and the non-forest land uses that replaced mangroves. In this study, we evaluated the ability of Sentinel imagery for the retrieval and predictive mapping of above-ground biomass of mangroves and their replacement land uses. We used Sentinel SAR and multispectral imagery to develop biomass prediction models through the conventional linear regression and novel Machine Learning algorithms. We developed models each from SAR raw polarisation backscatter data, multispectral bands, vegetation indices, and canopy biophysical variables. The results show that the model based on biophysical variable Leaf Area Index (LAI) derived from Sentinel-2 was more accurate in predicting the overall above-ground biomass. In contrast, the model which utilised optical bands had the lowest accuracy. However, the SAR-based model was more accurate in predicting the biomass in the usually deficient to low vegetation cover non-forest replacement land uses such as abandoned aquaculture pond, cleared mangrove and abandoned salt pond. These models had 0.82–0.83 correlation/agreement of observed and predicted value, and root mean square error of 27.8–28.5 Mg ha−1. Among the Sentinel-2 multispectral bands, the red and red edge bands (bands 4, 5 and 7), combined with elevation data, were the best variable set combination for biomass prediction. The red edge-based Inverted Red-Edge Chlorophyll Index had the highest prediction accuracy among the vegetation indices. Overall, Sentinel-1 SAR and Sentinel-2 multispectral imagery can provide satisfactory results in the retrieval and predictive mapping of the above-ground biomass of mangroves and the replacement non-forest land uses, especially with the inclusion of elevation data. The study demonstrates encouraging results in biomass mapping of mangroves and other coastal land uses in the tropics using the freely accessible and relatively high-resolution Sentinel imagery.