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Airborne laser scanning in forest management: Individual tree identification and laser pulse penetration in a stand with different levels of thinning

Hirata, Yasumasa, Furuya, Naoyuki, Suzuki, Makoto, Yamamoto, Hirokazu
Forest ecology and management 2009 v.258 no.5 pp. 752-760
image analysis, forest trees, lidar, forest canopy, spatial distribution, height, forest stands, forest thinning, remote sensing, forest inventory, digital images, Chamaecyparis obtusa, density, stand basal area, stand structure, Japan
This study examined the ability of an airborne laser scanner to identify individual trees in the canopy of a Chamaecyparis obtusa stand and investigated the relationship between the penetration rate of the laser pulses and stand attributes under different canopy conditions caused by different levels of thinning. Individual tree crowns were identified from a digital canopy model (DCM) derived from airborne laser scanner data by the watershed segmentation method. The identification rate of individual trees in blocks with heavy thinning (ratio of the basal area of the felled trees to the total basal area, hereinafter thinning ratio of the basal area, 38.0%), moderate thinning (30.4%), and no thinning was 95.3%, 89.2%, and 60.0%, respectively. Individual tree heights were estimated from the DCM values by local maximum filtering within identified individual crowns. Tree height in the three blocks was estimated with a root-mean-square error of 0.95, 0.65, and 0.68m, respectively. Tree heights determined in a field survey were regressed against those estimated from the DCM, yielding coefficients of determination (r ²) of 0.71, 0.87, and 0.85, respectively, for the blocks with heavy thinning, moderate thinning, and no thinning, respectively, and 0.86 overall. The respective penetration rates of the laser pulses through the canopy to the ground were 50.6%, 43.1%, and 9.2%. Regression of the laser pulse penetration rate against the thinning ratio of the basal area and against the total basal area of the remaining trees in 25 quadrats established in the blocks, yielded r ² values of 0.89 and 0.74, respectively.