Accurate measurement of the field leaf area index (LAI) is crucial for assessing forest growth and health status. Three-dimensional (3-D) structural information of trees from terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) have information loss to various extents because of the occlusion by canopy parts. The data with higher loss, regarded as poor-quality data, heavily hampers the estimation accuracy of LAI. Multi-location scanning, which proved effective in reducing the occlusion effects in other forests, is hard to carry out in the mangrove forest due to the difficulty of moving between mangrove trees. As a result, the quality of point cloud data (PCD) varies among plots in mangrove forests. To improve retrieval accuracy of mangrove LAI, it is essential to select only the high-quality data. Several previous studies have evaluated the regions of occlusion through the consideration of laser pulses trajectories. However, the model is highly susceptible to the indeterminate profile of complete vegetation object and computationally intensive. Therefore, this study developed a new index (vegetation horizontal occlusion index, VHOI) by combining unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) imagery and TLS data to quantify TLS data quality. VHOI is asymptotic to 0.0 with increasing data quality. In order to test our new index, the VHOI values of 102 plots with a radius of 5 m were calculated with TLS data and UAV image. The results showed that VHOI had a strong linear relationship with estimation accuracy of LAI (R2
= 0.72, RMSE = 0.137). In addition, as TLS data were selected by VHOI less than different thresholds (1.0, 0.9, …, 0.1), the number of remaining plots decreased while the agreement between LAI derived from TLS and field-measured LAI was improved. When the VHOI threshold is 0.3, the optimal trade-off is reached between the number of plots and LAI measurement accuracy (R2
= 0.67). To sum up, VHOI can be used as an index to select high-quality data for accurately measuring mangrove LAI and the suggested threshold is 0.30.
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