In recent years, the outbreak of the pine shoot beetle (PSB), Tomicus
spp., has caused serious shoots damage and the death of millions of trees in Yunnan pine forests in southwestern China. It is urgent to develop a convincing approach to accurately assess the shoot damage ratio (SDR) for monitoring the PSB insects at an early stage. Unmanned airborne vehicles (UAV)-based sensors, including hyperspectral imaging (HI) and lidar, have very high spatial and spectral resolutions, which are very useful to detect forest health. However, very few studies have utilized HI and lidar data to estimate SDRs and compare the predictive power for mapping PSB damage at the individual tree level. Additionally, the data fusion of HI and lidar may improve the detection accuracy, but it has not been well studied. In this study, UAV-based HI and lidar data were fused to detect PSB. We systematically evaluated the potential of a hyperspectral approach (only-HI data), a lidar approach (only-lidar data), and a combined approach (HI plus lidar data) to characterize PSB damage of individual trees using the Random Forest (RF) algorithm, separately. The most innovative point is the proposed new method to extract the three dimensional (3D) shadow distribution of each tree crown based on a lidar point cloud and the 3D radiative transfer model RAPID. The results show that: (1) for the accuracy of estimating the SDR of individual trees, the lidar approach (R2
= 0.69, RMSE = 12.28%) performed better than hyperspectral approach (R2
= 0.67, RMSE = 15.87%), and in addition, it was useful to detect dead trees with an accuracy of 70%; (2) the combined approach has the highest accuracy (R2
= 0.83, RMSE = 9.93%) for mapping PSB damage degrees; and (3) when combining HI and lidar data to predict SDRs, two variables have the most contributions, which are the leaf chlorophyll content (Cab) derived from hyperspectral data and the return intensity of the top of shaded crown (Int_Shd_top) from lidar metrics. This study confirms the high possibility to accurately predict SDRs at individual tree level if combining HI and lidar data. The 3D radiative transfer model can determine the 3D crown shadows from lidar, which is a key information to combine HI and lidar. Therefore, our study provided a guidance to combine the advantages of hyperspectral and lidar data to accurately measure the health of individual trees, enabling us to prioritize areas for forest health promotion. This method may also be used for other 3D land surfaces, like urban areas.
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