Unsupervised semantic and instance segmentation of forest point clouds

Di Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) has been increasingly used in forestry applications including forest inventory and plant ecology. Tree biophysical properties such as leaf area distributions and wood volumes can be accurately estimated from TLS point clouds. In these applications, a prerequisite is to properly understand the information content of large scale point clouds (i.e., semantic labelling of point clouds), so that tree-scale attributes can be retrieved. Currently, this requirement is undergoing laborious and time consuming manual works. In this work, we jointly address the problems of semantic and instance segmentation of forest point clouds. Specifically, we propose an unsupervised pipeline based on a structure called superpoint graph, to simultaneously perform two tasks: single tree isolation and leaf-wood classification. The proposed method is free from restricted assumptions of forest types. Validation using simulated data resulted in a mean Intersection over Union (mIoU) of 0.81 for single tree isolation, and an overall accuracy of 87.7% for leaf-wood classification. The single tree isolation led to a relative root mean square error (RMSE%) of 2.9% and 19.8% for tree height and crown diameter estimations, respectively. Comparisons with existing methods on other benchmark datasets showed state-of-the-art results of our method on both single tree isolation and leaf-wood classification tasks. We provide the entire framework as an open-source tool with an end-user interface. This study closes the gap for using TLS point clouds to quantify tree-scale properties in large areas, where automatic interpretation of the information content of TLS point clouds remains a crucial challenge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86 - 97
Number of pages12
JournalISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Terrestrial LiDAR
  • Tree isolation
  • Component classification
  • Segmentation
  • Superpoint graph


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