iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Assessing the availability of forest biomass for bioenergy by publicly available satellite imagery

Giorgio Vacchiano (1)   , Roberta Berretti (2), Renzo Motta (2), Enrico Mondino Borgogno (2)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 11, Issue 4, Pages 459-468 (2018)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor2655-011
Published: Jul 02, 2018 - Copyright © 2018 SISEF

Research Articles

Forest biomass is a renewable energy source, more climate-friendly than fossil fuels and widely available in Europe. The wood energy chain has been suggested as a means to re-activate forest management and improve the value of forest stands in marginalized rural areas. However, wall-to-wall estimates of forest biomass, needed to design the location and size of power and heat biomass plants in any given territory, are notoriously difficult to obtain. This paper tests an algorithm to predict forest biomass using publicly available Landsat satellite imagery in the Liguria region, northern Italy. We used regional forest inventory data to train and validate an artificial neural network (ANN) classifier that uses remotely-sensed information such as three principal components of Landsat-5 TM spectral bands, the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), and topography, to retrieve aboveground live tree volume. Percent root mean square error was -9% and -23% for conifers and broadleaves respectively in the calibration dataset, and -27% and -24% in the validation dataset. The reconstructed volume map was updated to present day using current volume increment rates reported by the Italian National Forest Inventory. A wall-to-wall map of forest biomass from harvest residues was finally produced based on species-specific wood density, biomass expansion factors, volume logged for timber assortments, forest accessibility, and topography. Predicted aboveground forest volume ranged from 81 to 391 m3 ha-1. In forests available for wood supply (70% of the total), planned volume removals averaged 25.4 m3 ha-1, or 18.7% of the average standing stock across. Biomass available for bioenergy supply was 1.295.921 million Mg dry matter or 8.95 Mg ha-1. This analysis workflow can be replicated in all mountain regions with a predominant broadleaved coppice component.


Artificial Neural Networks, Mixed Forests, Landsat, Mediterranean Mountains, Vegetation Indices, Wood Energy Chain

Authors’ address

Giorgio Vacchiano
Università degli Studi di Milano, DISAA, v. Celoria 2, I-20123 Milano (Italy)
Roberta Berretti
Renzo Motta
Enrico Mondino Borgogno
Università degli Studi di Torino, DISAFA, l.go Braccini 2, I-10095 Grugliasco, TO (Italy)

Corresponding author

Giorgio Vacchiano


Vacchiano G, Berretti R, Motta R, Mondino Borgogno E (2018). Assessing the availability of forest biomass for bioenergy by publicly available satellite imagery. iForest 11: 459-468. - doi: 10.3832/ifor2655-011

Academic Editor

Rodolfo Picchio

Paper history

Received: Oct 18, 2017
Accepted: Apr 17, 2018

First online: Jul 02, 2018
Publication Date: Aug 31, 2018
Publication Time: 2.53 months

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