Light Detection and Ranging-Based Measures of Mixed Hardwood Forest Structure
Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) is increasingly used to map terrain and vegetation. Data collection is expensive, but costs are reduced when multiple products are derived from each mission. We examined how well low-density leaf-off LiDAR, originally flown for terrain mapping, quantified hardwood forest structure. We measured tree density, dbh, basal area, mean tree height, Lorey's mean tree height, and sawtimber and pulpwood volume at 114 field plots. Using univariate and multivariate linear regression models, we related field data to LiDAR return heights. We compared models using all LiDAR returns and only first returns. First-return univariate models explained more variability than all-return models; however, the differences were small for multivariate models. Multiple regression models had R2 values of 65% for sawtimber and pulpwood volume, 63% for Lorey's mean tree height, 55% for mean tree height, 48% for mean dbh, 46% for basal area, and 13% for tree density. However, the standard error of the mean for predictions ranged between 1 and 4%, and this level of error is well within levels needed for broad-scale forest assessments. Our results suggest that low-density LiDAR intended for terrain mapping is valuable for broad-scale hardwood forest inventories.