In forests with dense mixed canopies, laser scanning is often the only effective technique to acquire forest inventory attributes, rather than structure-from-motion optical methods. This study investigates the potential of laser scanner data collected with a low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle laser scanner (UAV-LS), for individual tree crown (ITC) delineation to derive forest biometric parameters, over two-layered dense mixed forest stands in central Italy. A raster-based local maxima region growing algorithm (itcLiDAR) and a point cloud-based algorithm (li2012) were applied to isolate individual tree crowns, compute height and crown area, estimate the diameter at breast height (DBH) and the above ground biomass (AGB) of individual trees. To maximize the level of detection rate, the ITC algorithm parameters were tuned varying 1350 setting combinations and matching the segmented trees with field measured trees. For each setting, the delineation accuracy was assessed by computing the detection rate, the omission and commission errors over three forest plots. Segmentation using itcLiDAR showed detection rates between 40% and 57%, while ITC delineation was successful at segmenting trees with DBH larger than 10 cm (detection rate ~78%), while failed to detect trees with smaller DBH (detection rate ~37%). The performance of li2012 was quite lower with the higher detection rate equal to 27%. Errors and goodness-of-fit between field-surveyed and flight-derived biometric parameters (AGB and tree height) were species-dependent, with higher error and lower r2
for shorter species that constitute the lowermost layer of the forest. Overall, while the application of UAV-LS to delineate tree crowns and estimate biometric parameters is satisfactory, its accuracy is affected by the presence of a multilayered and multispecies canopy that will require specific approaches and algorithms to better deal with the added complexity.
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