Obtaining accurate measurements of tree height and diameter at breast height (DBH) in forests to evaluate the growth rate of cultivars is still a significant challenge, even when using light detection and ranging (LiDAR) and three-dimensional (3-D) modeling. As an alternative, we provide a novel high-throughput strategy for predicting the biomass of forests in the field by vegetation indices. This study proposes an integrated pipeline methodology to measure the biomass of different tree cultivars in plantation forests with high crown density, which combines unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), hyperspectral image sensors, and data processing algorithms using machine learning. Using a planation of Cunninghamia lanceolate
, which is commonly known as Chinese fir, in Fujian, China, images were collected while using a hyperspectral camera. Vegetation indices and modeling were processed in Python using decision trees, random forests, support vector machine, and eXtreme Gradient Boosting (XGBoost) third-party libraries. The tree height and DBH of 2880 samples were manually measured and clustered into three groups—“Fast”, “median”, and “normal” growth groups—and 19 vegetation indices from 12,000 pixels were abstracted as the input of features for the modeling. After modeling and cross-validation, the classifier that was generated by random forests had the best prediction accuracy when compared to other algorithms (75%). This framework can be applied to other tree species to make management and business decisions.
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