Satellite remote sensing-based estimates of biomass production on reclaimed coal mines

Dr Simit Raval (ACSMP), Ali Shamsoddini, Emily Sarver, Carl Zipper, Patricia Donovan, Daniel Evans and H. T. Chu

Remote sensing methods have been used to evaluate vegetative growth patterns for many applications, though relatively little work has focused on tracking mine reclamation progress. For coal mines in Central Appalachia (USA), reclamation approaches that include production of biofuel feedstocks are increasingly attractive as these may yield significant post-mining land values and contribute to carbon-neutral energy supplies. To optimise biomass productivity, the influence of reclamation practices on biomass production must be well understood – which necessitates tracking biomass production over long time periods. Satellite-based estimations may offer low-cost alternatives to conventional biomass estimations, and also the potential to provide critical input for carbon accounting at varied spatial scales. In this study, experimental biomass production plots on reclaimed mine sites established in Wise County, Virginia, are used for a comparative study of satellite spectral derivatives, which are evaluated  against ground-based biomass estimates. Metrics based on four spectral derivatives, band ratios and spectral transforms were regressed against biomass measured in situ for different species. The results demonstrate that greenness and principal component 2 (PC2) were more efficient than the other spectral derivatives for monitoring the biomass of this reclaimed area. Also, it is shown that Landsat-5 TM has provided promising results for monitoring of the biomass changes occurring from 2008 to 2010 over the study area.