Canadian Forest Service Publications

Stand delineation and composition estimation using semi-automated individual tree crown analysis. 2003. Leckie, D.G.; Gougeon, F.A.; Walsworth, N.; Paradine, D. Remote Sensing of Environment 85: 355-369.

Year: 2003

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 21819

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free), PDF (download)

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Stand delineation and species composition estimation are cornerstones of forest inventory mapping and key elements to forest management decision making. Improved mapping techniques are constantly being sought in terms of speed, consistency, accuracy, level of detail, and overall effectiveness. Semi-automated analysis of high-resolution imagery at the individual tree crown level may offer such benefits. Methods, however, need to be developed and tested under a variety of forest conditions. High-resolution (60 cm) multispectral airborne imagery was acquired over a predominantly young conifer forest and plantation test area on the west coast of Canada. Automated tree isolation algorithms were applied to the data in order to delineate tree crowns or clusters of crowns. An object-oriented single tree classification was conducted using a maximum likelihood classifier. Stands of similar species composition, closure, and stem density were defined through a sequence that first generated images of these parameters from the automated delineation and classification, used these as input to an unsupervised classification, and then filtered and smoothed the resulting classification clusters. Because of the dense nature of the stands and small crowns on the site, the isolation process often delineated clusters of several trees. Species classification accuracy was determined by comparing the average stand composition from the automated technique to that derived from ground transects or plots. Species classification was good, with average composition error (difference between field measured and automated composition) over all 16 test stands being 7.25%. Most errors for individual species in stands were below 20%, but a few were up to 30%. The automatically generated stand boundaries mimicked well those of known plantation and interpreted inventory boundaries. The automated technique created a few larger stands and some additional small stands in areas of complex forest structure. Overall, for the young fairly uniform stands of the site, both stand delineation and species composition estimation were of a quality suitable for operational use in inventory and forest management. Further development and testing is needed to extend results to situations covering large areas, multiple flight lines, varied topography, and different forest conditions.