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Comparisons between field- and LiDAR-based measures of stand structural complexity

Kane, Van R., McGaughey, Robert J., Bakker, Jonathan D., Gersonde, Rolf F., Lutz, James A., Franklin, Jerry F.
Canadian journal of forest research = 2010 v.40 no.4 pp. 761
stand structure, forest stands, tree and stand measurements, forest trees, spatial distribution, lidar, conifers, coniferous forests, forest succession, correlation
Forest structure, as measured by the physical arrangement of trees and their crowns, is a fundamental attribute of forest ecosystems that changes as forests progress through suc;cessional stages. We examined whether LiDAR data could be used to directly assess the successional stage of forests by determining the degree to which the LiDAR data would show the same relative ranking of structural development among sites as would traditional field measurements. We sampled 94 primary and secondary sites (19-93, 223-350, and 600 years old) from three conifer forest zones in western Washington state, USA, in the field and with small-footprint, discrete return LiDAR. Seven sets of LiDAR metrics were tested to measure canopy structure. Ordinations using the of LiDAR 95th percentile height, rumple, and canopy density metrics had the strongest correlations with ordinations using two sets of field metrics (Procrustes R = 0.72 and 0.78) and a combined set of LiDAR and field metrics (Procrustes R = 0.95). These results suggest that LiDAR can accurately characterize forest successional stage where field measurements are not available. This has important implications for enabling basic and applied studies of forest structure at stand to landscape scales.