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Investigating the impact of discrete-return lidar point density on estimations of mean and dominant plot-level tree height in Eucalyptus grandis plantations

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The accuracy of lidar remote sensing in characterizing three-dimensional forest structural attributes has encouraged foresters to integrate lidar approaches in routine inventories. However, lidar point density is an important consideration when assessing forest biophysical parameters, given the direct relationship between higher spatial resolution and lidar acquisition and processing costs. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of point density on mean and dominant tree height estimates at plot level. The study was conducted in an intensively managed Eucalyptus grandis plantation. High point density (eight points/m2) discrete-return, small-footprint lidar data were used to generate point density simulations averaging 0.25, one, two, three, four, five, and six points/m2. Field surveyed plot-level mean and dominant heights were regressed against metrics derived from lidar data at each simulated point density. Stepwise regression was used to identify which lidar metrics produced the best models. Mean height was estimated at accuracy of R2 ranging between 0.93 and 0.94 while dominant height was estimated with an R2 of 0.95. Root mean square error (RMSE) was also similar at all densities for mean height (∼1.0 m) and dominant height (∼1.2 m); the relative RMSE compared to field-measured mean was constant at approximately 5%. Analysis of bias showed that the estimation of both variables did not vary with density. The results indicated that all lidar point densities resulted in reliable models. It was concluded that plot-level height can be estimated with reliable accuracy using relatively low density lidar point spacing. Additional research is required to investigate the effect of low point density on estimation of other forest biophysical attributes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa 2: Rochester Institute of Technology, Center for Imaging Science—Laboratory for Imaging Algorithms and Systems, Rochester, NY, USA

Publication date: 2010-04-01

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