Single tree detection in heterogeneous boreal forests using airborne laser scanning and area-based stem number estimates

A investigation of adaptive single tree detection methods using airborne laser scanning (ALS) data are published in International Journal of Remote Sensing (IJRS). The single tree detection methods were investigated and validated on 40 large plots sampled from a structurally heterogeneous boreal forest dominated by Norway spruce and Scots pine. Under the working assumption of having uniformly distributed tree locations, area-based stem number estimates were used to guide tree crown delineation from rasterized laser data in two ways: (1) by controlling the amount of smoothing of the canopy height model and (2) by obtaining an appropriate spatial resolution for representing the forest canopy. Single tree crowns were delineated from the canopy height models (CHMs) using a marker-based watershed algorithm, and the delineation results were assessed using a simple tree crown delineation algorithm as a reference method (‘RefMeth’). Using the proposed methods, approximately 46–50% of the total number of trees were detected, while approximately 5–6% false positives were found. The detection rate was, in general, higher for Scots pine than for Norway spruce. The accuracy of individual tree variables (total height and crown width) extracted from the laser data was compared with field-measured data. The individual tree heights were better estimated for deciduous tree species than for the coniferous species Norway spruce and Scots pine. The estimation of crown diameters for Scots pine and deciduous species achieved comparable accuracy, being better than for Norway spruce. The proposed methodology has the potential for easy integration with operational laser scanner-based stand inventories.

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