Detailed Stem Measurements of Standing Trees from Ground-Based Scanning Lidar

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A commercially available pan-and-tilt mount laser scanner was used to acquire data for subsequent three-dimensional modeling and measurement of standing forest trees. Methods were developed for identifying trees in range images and co-registering range images acquired from different vantage points. Upper-stem diameters and branch heights derived from the range images were compared to measurements made after the felling of a small number of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) trees. Tree identification assumed bole cross-sections were circular, estimating their geometric centers at successive heights up the stem. Tree center estimates at multiple heights were then used to co-register images made from different vantage points. Co-registration (x, y) errors did not exceed 2.1 cm in any of the 18 pairwise registrations carried out. Results showed excellent agreement (average error < 1 cm) between the lidar-derived diameter estimates and caliper measurements for bole sections below the base of live crown. Less accurate estimates (<2 cm) were obtained for stem heights up to 13 m. Results indicated the potential for accurate assessment of branch or whorl heights using ground-based scanning lidar, with the greatest accuracy likely to be realized for branches near the base of the live crown and below it.

Keywords: 3D imaging; Terrestrial laser scanner; close-range remote sensing; registration; segmentation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Philip J. Radtke, Department of Forestry, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061—Phone: 540-231-8863;, Fax: 540-231-3698, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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