Volumetric lidar return patterns from an old-growth tropical rainforest canopy
Rainforests represent the epitome of structural complexity in terrestrial ecosystems. However, measures of three-dimensional canopy structure are limited to a few areas typically < 1 ha with construction crane or walkway/platform access. An innovative laser profiling system, the Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS), was used to map canopy structure (i.e. based on height and vertical distribution of laser returns) of a tropical rainforest in Costa Rica. Within a 1km2 area of mature rainforest, canopy top height ranged from 8.4 to 51.6m based on the altimeter measures. The laser return density was most concentrated in the horizontal layer located 20-30m above the ground. Spatial patterns of the return were found to be isotropic based on north-south versus east-west vertical return profiles and exhibited properties of self-similarity.