Forest land-use planning and restoration requires effective tools for mapping and attributing linear disturbances such as roads, trails, and asset corridors over large areas. Most existing linear-feature databases are generated by heads-up digitizing. While suitable for cartographic purposes, these datasets often lack the fine spatial details and multiple attributes required for more demanding analytical applications. To address this need, we developed the Forest Line Mapper (FLM), a semi-automated software tool for mapping and attributing linear features using LiDAR-derived canopy height models. Accuracy assessments conducted in the boreal forest of Alberta, Canada showed that the FLM reliably predicts both the center line (polyline) and footprint (extent polygons) of a variety of linear-feature types including roads, pipelines, seismic lines, and power lines. Our analysis showed that FLM outputs were consistently more accurate than publicly available datasets produced by human photo-interpreters, and that the tool can be reliably deployed across large application areas. In addition to accurately delineating linear features, the FLM generates a variety of spatial attributes associated with line geometry and vegetation characteristics from input canopy height data. Our statistical evaluation indicates that spatial attributes generated by the FLM may be useful for studying and classifying linear features based on disturbance type and ground conditions. The FLM is open-source and freely available and is aimed to assist researchers and land managers working in forested environments everywhere.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited