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Measuring forest structure with terrestrial laser scanning

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This paper investigates the application of a ground-based laser scanning system for providing quantitative tree measurements in densely stocked plantation forests. A methodology is tested in Kielder Forest, northern England using stands of mature Sitka spruce ( Picea sitchensis ) and a structured mixture of Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine ( Pinus contorta ), standing at tree densities of 600 and 2800?stems?ha -1 respectively. Three laser scans, two in the Sitka spruce and one in structured mixture, were collected using a Reigl Inc. LPM-300VHS high-speed laser scanner. Field measurements were recorded at the same time and included tree diameter at breast height (dbh) and tree height. These measurements were then compared with those derived from the scanner. The results demonstrate that accurate measurements of tree diameter can be derived directly from the laser scan point cloud return in instances where the sensor's view of the tree is not obstructed. Measurements of upper stem diameters, branch internodal distance and canopy dimensions can also be measured from the laser scan data. However, at the scanning spatial resolution selected, it was not possible to measure branch size. The level of detail that can be obtained from the scan data is dependent on the number and location of scans within the plot as well as the scanning resolution. Essentially, as the shadowing caused by tree density or branching frequency increases, the amount of useful information contained in the scan decreases.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, England, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2005

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