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Data for Spatially distributed overstory and understory leaf area index estimated from forest inventory data

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Type: Resource
Storage: The size of this resource is 11.8 GB
Created: Jul 31, 2022 at 7:21 p.m.
Last updated: Aug 04, 2022 at 4:46 p.m.
DOI: 10.4211/hs.ff7ced18a3234f63b9c3cfae03702c30
Citation: See how to cite this resource
Content types: Geographic Raster Content 
Sharing Status: Published
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This resource contains the data and scripts used for:
Goeking, S. A. and D. G. Tarboton, (2022). Spatially distributed overstory and understory leaf area index estimated from forest inventory data. Water.

Abstract from the paper:
Abstract: Forest change affects the relative magnitudes of hydrologic fluxes such as evapotranspiration (ET) and streamflow. However, much is unknown about the sensitivity of streamflow response to forest disturbance and recovery. Several physically based models recognize the different influences that overstory versus understory canopies exert on hydrologic processes, yet most input datasets consist of total leaf area index (LAI) rather than individual canopy strata. Here, we developed stratum-specific LAI datasets with the intent of improving the representation of vegetation for ecohydrologic modeling. We applied three pre-existing methods for estimating overstory LAI, and one new method for estimating both overstory and understory LAI, to measurements collected from a probability-based plot network established by the US Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program, for a modeling domain in Montana, MT, USA. We then combined plot-level LAI estimates with spatial datasets (i.e., biophysical and re-mote sensing predictors) in a machine learning algorithm (random forests) to produce annual gridded LAI datasets. Methods that estimate only overstory LAI tended to underestimate LAI relative to Landsat-based LAI (mean bias error ≥ 0.83), while the method that estimated both overstory and understory layers was most strongly correlated with Landsat-based LAI (r2 = 0.80 for total LAI, with mean bias error of -0.99). During 1984-2019, interannual variability of under-story LAI exceeded that for overstory LAI; this variability may affect partitioning of precipitation to ET vs. runoff at annual timescales. We anticipate that distinguishing overstory and understory components of LAI will improve the ability of LAI-based models to simulate how for-est change influences hydrologic processes.

This resource contains one CSV file, two shapefiles (each within a zip file), two R scripts, and multiple raster datasets. The two shapefiles represent the boundaries of the Middle Fork Flathead river and South Fork Flathead River watersheds. The raster datasets represent annual leaf area index (LAI) at 30 m resolution for the entire modeling domain used in this study. LAI was estimated using method LAI4, which produced separate overstory and understory LAI datasets. Filenames contain years, e.g., "LAI4_2019" is overstory LAI for 2019; "LAI4under_2019" is understory LAI for 2019.

The CSV files in this Resource contain annual time series of LAI and ET ratio (annual evapotranspiration divided by annual precipitation) for the South Fork Flathead River and Middle Fork Flathead River watersheds, 1984-2019. LAI methods represented in this time series are LAI1 and LAI4 from the paper. LAI1 consists of only overstory LAI, and LAI4 consists of overstory (LAI4), understory (LAI4_under), and total (LAI4_total) LAI. For each LAI estimation method, summary statistics of the entire watershed are included (min, first quartile, median, third quartile, and max).

The two R scripts (R language and environment for statistical computing) summarize Forest Inventory & Analysis (FIA) data from the FIA database (FIADB) to estimate LAI at FIA plots.
1) FIADB_queries_public.r: Script for compiling FIA plot measurements prior to estimating LAI
2) LAI_estimation_public: Script for estimating LAI at FIA plots using the four methods described in this paper

Before running the R scripts, users must obtain several FIADB tables (PLOT, COND, TREE, and P2VEG_SUBP_STRUCTURE; all four tables must be renamed with lower-case names, e.g., "plot"). These tables can be obtained using one of two methods:
1) By downloading CSV files for the appropriate U.S. state(s) from the FIA DataMart ( If this method is used, the CSV files must be imported (read) into R before proceeding.
2) By using r package 'rFIA' to download the tables from FIADB for the U.S. state(s) of interest.

Note that publicly available plot coordinates are accurate within 1 km and are not true plot locations, which are legally confidential to protect the integrity of the sample locations and the privacy of landowners. Access to true plot location data requires review by FIA's Spatial Data Services unit, who can be contacted at

Subject Keywords



Coordinate System/Geographic Projection:
WGS 84 EPSG:4326
Coordinate Units:
Decimal degrees
Place/Area Name:
Middle Fork Flathead River and South Fork Flathead River watersheds
North Latitude
East Longitude
South Latitude
West Longitude


Data Services

The following web services are available for data contained in this resource. Geospatial Feature and Raster data are made available via Open Geospatial Consortium Web Services. The provided links can be copied and pasted into GIS software to access these data. Multidimensional NetCDF data are made available via a THREDDS Data Server using remote data access protocols such as OPeNDAP. Other data services may be made available in the future to support additional data types.

Related Resources

This resource is referenced by Goeking, S. A. and D. G. Tarboton, (2022). Spatially distributed overstory and understory leaf area index estimated from forest inventory data. Water.


Funding Agencies

This resource was created using funding from the following sources:
Agency Name Award Title Award Number
USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Forest Inventory & Analysis Program
Utah Water Research Laboratory, Utah State University, Logan, Utah 84322-8200

How to Cite

Goeking, S. A., D. Tarboton (2022). Data for Spatially distributed overstory and understory leaf area index estimated from forest inventory data, HydroShare,

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