The possibility of global, three-dimensional remote sensing of forest structure with interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) bears on important forest ecological processes, particularly the carbon cycle. InSAR supplements two-dimensional remote sensing with information in the vertical dimension. Its strengths in potential for global coverage complement those of lidar (light detecting and ranging), which has the potential for high-accuracy vertical profiles over small areas. InSAR derives its sensitivity to forest vertical structure from the differences in signals received by two, spatially separate radar receivers. Estimation of parameters describing vertical structure requires multiple-polarization, multiple-frequency, or multiple-baseline InSAR. Combining InSAR with complementary remote sensing techniques, such as hyperspectral optical imaging and lidar, can enhance vertical-structure estimates and consequent biophysical quantities of importance to ecologists, such as biomass. Future InSAR experiments will supplement recent airborne and spaceborne demonstrations, and together with inputs from ecologists regarding structure, they will suggest designs for future spaceborne strategies for measuring global vegetation structure.
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