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

Authors: Henning, Jason G.; Radtke, Philip J.

Source: Forest Science, Volume 52, Number 1, January 2006 , pp. 67-80(14)

Publisher: Society of American Foresters

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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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  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
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