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Forests 2015, 6(11), 4146-4167; doi:10.3390/f6114146

Towards Automated Characterization of Canopy Layering in Mixed Temperate Forests Using Airborne Laser Scanning

1
Remote Sensing Laboratories, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, Zurich CH-8057, Switzerland
2
Institute of Mathematics, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, Zurich CH-8057, Switzerland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Juha Hyyppä and Eric J. Jokela
Received: 18 September 2015 / Revised: 10 November 2015 / Accepted: 12 November 2015 / Published: 18 November 2015
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Abstract

Canopy layers form essential structural components, affecting stand productivity and wildlife habitats. Airborne laser scanning (ALS) provides horizontal and vertical information on canopy structure simultaneously. Existing approaches to assess canopy layering often require prior information about stand characteristics or rely on pre-defined height thresholds. We developed a multi-scale method using ALS data with point densities >10 pts/m2 to determine the number and vertical extent of canopy layers (canopylayer, canopylength), seasonal variations in the topmost canopy layer (canopytype), as well as small-scale heterogeneities in the canopy (canopyheterogeneity). We first tested and developed the method on a small forest patch (800 ha) and afterwards tested transferability and robustness of the method on a larger patch (180,000 ha). We validated the approach using an extensive set of ground data, achieving overall accuracies >77% for canopytype and canopyheterogeneity, and >62% for canopylayer and canopylength. We conclude that our method provides a robust characterization of canopy layering supporting automated canopy structure monitoring. View Full-Text
Keywords: remote sensing; multi-scale; operational; point cloud; area-based approach; forest inventory; vegetation structure; LiDAR remote sensing; multi-scale; operational; point cloud; area-based approach; forest inventory; vegetation structure; LiDAR
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Leiterer, R.; Torabzadeh, H.; Furrer, R.; Schaepman, M.E.; Morsdorf, F. Towards Automated Characterization of Canopy Layering in Mixed Temperate Forests Using Airborne Laser Scanning. Forests 2015, 6, 4146-4167.

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