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Remote Sens. 2013, 5(10), 5040-5063; doi:10.3390/rs5105040

Leaf Area Index (LAI) Estimation in Boreal Mixedwood Forest of Ontario, Canada Using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and WorldView-2 Imagery

Department of Geography, Queen's University, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada
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Received: 18 July 2013 / Revised: 7 October 2013 / Accepted: 9 October 2013 / Published: 14 October 2013
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Abstract

Leaf Area Index (LAI) is an important input variable for forest ecosystem modeling as it is a factor in predicting productivity and biomass, two key aspects of forest health. Current in situ methods of determining LAI are sometimes destructive and generally very time consuming. Other LAI derivation methods, mainly satellite-based in nature, do not provide sufficient spatial resolution or the precision required by forest managers for tactical planning. This paper focuses on estimating LAI from: (i) height and density metrics derived from Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR); (ii) spectral vegetation indices (SVIs), in particular the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI); and (iii) a combination of these methods. For the Hearst Forest of Northern Ontario, in situ measurements of LAI were derived from digital hemispherical photographs (DHPs) while remote sensing variables were derived from low density LiDAR (i.e., 1 m−2) and high spatial resolution WorldView-2 data (2 m). Multiple Linear Regression (MLR) models were generated using these variables. Results from these analyses demonstrate: (i) moderate explanatory power (i.e., R2 = 0.53) for LiDAR height and density metrics that have proven to be related to canopy structure; (ii) no relationship when using SVIs; and (iii) no significant improvement of LiDAR models when combining them with SVI variables. The results suggest that LiDAR models in boreal forest environments provide satisfactory estimations of LAI, even with narrow ranges of LAI for model calibration. Models derived from low point density LiDAR in a mixedwood boreal environment seem to offer a reliable method of estimating LAI at high spatial resolution for decision makers in the forestry community. This method can be easily incorporated into simultaneous modeling efforts for forest inventory variables using LiDAR.
Keywords: leaf area index; LiDAR; WorldView-2; hemispherical photographs; boreal forest leaf area index; LiDAR; WorldView-2; hemispherical photographs; boreal forest
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Pope, G.; Treitz, P. Leaf Area Index (LAI) Estimation in Boreal Mixedwood Forest of Ontario, Canada Using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and WorldView-2 Imagery. Remote Sens. 2013, 5, 5040-5063.

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