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Quantifying the spatial properties of forest canopy gaps using LiDAR imagery and GIS

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The spatial properties of gaps have an important influence upon the regeneration dynamics and species composition of forests. However, such properties can be difficult to quantify over large spatial areas using field measurements. This research considers how we conceptualize and define forest canopy gaps from a remote sensing point of view and highlights the inadequacies of passive optical remotely sensed data for delineating gaps. The study employs the analytical functions of a geographical information system to extract gap spatial characteristics from imagery acquired by an active remote sensing device, an airborne light detection and ranging instrument (LiDAR). These techniques were applied to an area of semi-natural broadleaved deciduous forest, in order to map gap size, shape complexity, vegetation height diversity and gap connectivity. A vegetation cover map derived from imagery from an airborne multispectral scanner was used in combination with the LiDAR data to characterize the dominant vegetation types within gaps. Although the quantification of these gap characteristics alone is insufficient to provide conclusive evidence on specific processes, the paper demonstrates how such information can be indicative of the general status of a forest and can provide new perspectives and possibilities or further ecological research and forest monitoring activities.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Geography Department, University of the Aegean University Hill Mytilene 81100 Greece +30 2251 036424 +30 2251 036409, Email: 2: Lancaster University Geography Department Lancaster LA1 4YB, England UK +44 1524 592775 +44 1524 847099, Email:

Publication date: 2004-08-01

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