The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relationships between environmental factors and the site index (SI) of trembling aspen, lodgepole pine, and white spruce based on the sampling of temporary sample plots. LiDAR generated digital elevation models (DEM) and wet areas mapping (WAM) provided data at a 1 m resolution for the study area in Alberta. Six different catchment areas (CA), ranging from 0.5 ha to 10 ha, were tested to reveal optimal CA for calculation of the depth-to-water (DTW) index from WAM. Using different modeling methods, species-specific SI models were developed for three datasets: (1) topographic and wet area variables derived from DEM and WAM, (2) only WAM variables, and (3) field measurements of soil and topography. DTW was selected by each statistical method for each species and, in most cases, DTW was the strongest predictor in the model. In addition, differences in strength of relationships were found between species. Models based on remotely-sensed information predicted SI with a root mean squared error (RMSE) of 1.6 m for aspen and lodgepole pine, and 2 m for white spruce. This approach appears to adequately portray the variation in productivity at a fine scale and is potentially applicable to forest growth and yield modeling and silviculture planning.
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