Currently, existing methods for single-tree detection based on airborne laser scanning (ALS) data usually require some thresholds and parameters to be set manually. Manually setting threshold or parameters is laborious and time-consuming, and for dense forests, the high commission and omission rate make most existing single-tree detection techniques inefficient. As a solution to these problems, this paper proposed an automatic single-tree detection method in ALS data through gradient orientation clustering (GOC). In this method, the rasterized Canopy Height Model (CHM) was derived from ALS data using surface interpolation. Then, potential trees were assumed as approximate conical shapes and extracted based on the GOC. Finally, trees were identified from the potential trees based on the compactness of the crown shape. This method used the gradient orientation information of rasterized CHM, thus increasing the generalization of single-tree detection method. In order to verify the validity and practicability of the proposed method, twelve 1256 m2
circular study plots of different forest types were selected from the benchmark dataset (NEWFOR), and the results from nine different methods were presented and compared for these study plots. Among nine methods, the proposed method had the highest root mean square matching score (RMS_M
= 43). Moreover, the proposed method had excellent detection (M
> 47) in both single-layer coniferous and single-layered mixed stands.
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