Canadian Forest Service Publications

Estimating canopy structure of Douglas-fir forest stands from discrete-return LiDAR. 2007. Coops, N.C.; Hilker, T.; Wulder, M.A.; St-Onge, B.A.; Newnham, G.J.; Siggins, A.; Trofymow, J.A. Trees - Structure and Function 21: 295-310.

Year: 2007

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 27356

Language: English

Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1007/s00468-006-0119-6

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Variations in vertical and horizontal forest structure are often difficult to quantify as field-based methods are labour intensive and passive optical remote sensing techniques are limited in their capacity to distinguish structural changes occurring below the top of the canopy. In this study the capacity of small footprint (0.19 cm), discrete return, densely spaced (0.7 hits/m-2), multiple return, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology, to measure foliage height and to estimate several stand and canopy structure attributes is investigated. The study focused on six Douglas-fir [Pseudotsuga menziesii spp. menziesii (Mirb.) Franco] and western hemlock [Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.] stands located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, with each stand representing a different structural stage of stand development for forests within this biogeoclimatic zone. Tree height, crown dimensions, cover, and vertical foliage distributions were measured in 20 m × 20 m plots and correlated to the LiDAR data. Foliage profiles were then fitted, using the Weibull probability density function, to the field measured crown dimensions, vertical foliage density distributions and the LiDAR data at each plot. A modified canopy volume approach, based on methods developed for full waveform LiDAR observations, was developed and used to examine the vertical and horizontal variation in stand structure. Results indicate that measured stand attributes such as mean stand height, and basal area were significantly correlated with LiDAR estimates (r 2 = 0.85, P < 0.001, SE = 1.8 m and r 2 = 0.65, P < 0.05, SE = 14.8 m2 ha-1, respectively). Significant relationships were also found between the LiDAR data and the field estimated vertical foliage profiles indicating that models of vertical foliage distribution may be robust and transferable between both field and LiDAR datasets. This study demonstrates that small footprint, discrete return, LiDAR observations can provide quantitative information on stand and tree height, as well as information on foliage profiles, which can be successfully modelled, providing detailed descriptions of canopy structure.