Is field-measured tree height as reliable as believed – A comparison study of tree height estimates from field measurement, airborne laser scanning and terrestrial laser scanning in a boreal forest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-145
Number of pages14
JournalISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Volume147
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Researchers

  • Yunsheng Wang
  • Matti Lehtomäki
  • Xinlian Liang
  • Jiri Pyörälä
  • Antero Kukko

  • Anttoni Jaakkola
  • Jingbin Liu
  • Ziyi Feng
  • Ruizhi Chen
  • Juha Hyyppä

Research units

  • Finnish Geospatial Research Institute
  • Academy of Finland
  • University of Helsinki
  • Wuhan University

Abstract

Quantitative comparisons of tree height observations from different sources are scarce due to the difficulties in effective sampling. In this study, the reliability and robustness of tree height observations obtained via a conventional field inventory, airborne laser scanning (ALS) and terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) were investigated. A carefully designed non-destructive experiment was conducted that included 1174 individual trees in 18 sample plots (32 m × 32 m) in a Scandinavian boreal forest. The point density of the ALS data was approximately 450 points/m2. The TLS data were acquired with multi-scans from the center and the four quadrant directions of the sample plots. Both the ALS and TLS data represented the cutting edge point cloud products. Tree heights were manually measured from the ALS and TLS point clouds with the aid of existing tree maps. Therefore, the evaluation results revealed the capacities of the applied laser scanning (LS) data while excluding the influence of data processing approach such as the individual tree detection. The reliability and robustness of different tree height sources were evaluated through a cross-comparison of the ALS-, TLS-, and field- based tree heights. Compared to ALS and TLS, field measurements were more sensitive to stand complexity, crown classes, and species. Overall, field measurements tend to overestimate height of tall trees, especially tall trees in codominant crown class. In dense stands, high uncertainties also exist in the field measured heights for small trees in intermediate and suppressed crown class. The ALS-based tree height estimates were robust across all stand conditions. The taller the tree, the more reliable was the ALS-based tree height. The highest uncertainty in ALS-based tree heights came from trees in intermediate crown class, due to the difficulty of identifying treetops. When using TLS, reliable tree heights can be expected for trees lower than 15–20 m in height, depending on the complexity of forest stands. The advantage of LS systems was the robustness of the geometric accuracy of the data. The greatest challenges of the LS techniques in measuring individual tree heights lie in the occlusion effects, which lead to omissions of trees in intermediate and suppressed crown classes in ALS data and incomplete crowns of tall trees in TLS data.

    Research areas

  • Accuracy, Airborne laser scanning, Field measurement, Forest inventory, Individual tree, Terrestrial laser scanning, Tree height

ID: 30191464