• tropical forest structure;
  • interferometric SAR;
  • lidar

[1] This paper addresses the estimation of vertical vegetation density profiles from multibaseline interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data from the AirSAR aircraft at C band over primary, secondary, and abandoned-pasture stands at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica in 2004. Profiles were also estimated from field data taken in 2006 and lidar data taken with the LVIS, 25 m spot instrument in 2005. After motivating the study of tropical forest profiles based on their role in the global carbon cycle, ecosystem state, and biodiversity, this paper describes the InSAR, field, and lidar data acquisitions and analyses. Beyond qualitative agreement between profiles from the 3 measurement techniques, results show that InSAR and lidar profile-averaged mean height have RMS scatters about field-measured means of 3.4 m and 3.2 m, 16% and 15% of the average mean height, respectively. InSAR and lidar standard deviations of the vegetation distribution have RMS scatters about the field standard deviations of 1.9 m and 1.5 m, or 27% and 21%, respectively. Dominant errors in the profile-averaged mean height for each measurement technique were modeled. InSAR inaccuracies, dominated by ambiguities in finding the ground altitude and coherence calibration, together account for about 3 m of InSAR error in the mean height. The dominant, modeled error for the field measurements was the inaccuracy in modeling the trees as uniformly filled volumes of leaf area, inducing field errors in mean height of about 3 m. The dominant, modeled lidar error, also due to finding the ground, was 2 m.