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Forests 2017, 8(7), 231;

Measurement of Within-Season Tree Height Growth in a Mixed Forest Stand Using UAV Imagery

Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20740, USA
University of Applied Forest Sciences Rottenburg, Schadenweilerhof, 72108 Rottenburg am Neckar, Germany
Institute of Botany, Forest Ecology and Remote Sensing Group, University of Hohenheim, Garbenstr. 30, 70599 Stuttgart, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Peter N. Beets and Timothy A. Martin
Received: 13 April 2017 / Revised: 8 June 2017 / Accepted: 24 June 2017 / Published: 29 June 2017
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Tree height growth measurements at monthly and annual time scales are important for calibrating and validating forest growth models, forest management and studies of forest ecology and biophysical processes. Previous studies measured the terminal growth of individual trees or forest stands at annual or decadal time scales. Short-term, within-season measurements, however, are largely unavailable due to technical and practical limitations. Here, we describe a novel approach for measuring within-season tree height growth using a time series of co-registered digital surface models obtained with a low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle in combination with ground control plates and Structure from Motion data processing. The test site was a 2-hectare temperate mixed forest stand of varying age and successional stage in central Europe. Our results show median growth rates between 27 May and 19 August of 68 cm for Norway spruce, 93 cm for Scots pine, 106 cm for Silver birch and 26 cm for European beech. The results agree well with published field observations for these species. This study demonstrates the capability of inexpensive, increasingly user-friendly and versatile UAV systems for measuring tree height growth at short time scales, which was not previously possible, opening up new avenues for investigation and practical applications in forestry and research. View Full-Text
Keywords: forest monitoring; seasonal; tree height growth; forestry; UAV; UAS; COTS; SfM; DSM forest monitoring; seasonal; tree height growth; forestry; UAV; UAS; COTS; SfM; DSM

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Dempewolf, J.; Nagol, J.; Hein, S.; Thiel, C.; Zimmermann, R. Measurement of Within-Season Tree Height Growth in a Mixed Forest Stand Using UAV Imagery. Forests 2017, 8, 231.

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