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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Classification of tree species classes in a hemi-boreal forest from multispectral airborne laser scanning data using a mini raster cell method

Lindberg, Eva; Holmgren, Johan; Olsson, Hakan


Classification of tree species or species classes is still a challenge for remote sensing-based forest inventory. Operational use of Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) data for prediction of forest variables has this far been dominated by area-based methods where laser scanning data have been used for estimation of forest variables within raster cells. Classification of tree species has however not been achieved with sufficient accuracy with area-based methods using only ALS data. Furthermore, analysis of tree species at the level of raster cells with typical size of 15 m ? 15 m is not ideal in the case of mixed species stands. Most ALS systems for terrestrial mapping use only one wavelength of light. New multispectral ALS systems for terrestrial mapping have recently become operational, such as the Optech Titan system with wavelengths 1550 nm, 1064 nm, and 532 nm. This study presents an alternative type of area-based method for classification of tree species classes where multispectral ALS data are used in combination with small raster cells. In this ?mini raster cell method? features for classification are derived from the intensity of the different wavelengths in small raster cells using a moving window average approach to allow for a heterogeneous tree species composition. The most common tree species in the Nordic countries are Pinus sylvestris and Picea abies, constituting about 80% of the growing stock volume. The remaining 20% consists of several deciduous species, mainly Betula pendula and Betula pubescens, and often grow in mixed forest stands. Classification was done for pine (Pinus sylvestris), spruce (Picea abies), deciduous species and mixed species in middle-aged and mature stands in a study area located in hemi-boreal forest in the southwest of Sweden (N 58?27?, E 13?39?). The results were validated at plot level with the tree species composition defined as proportion of basal area of the tree species classes. The mini raster cell classification method was slightly more accurate (75% overall accuracy) than classification with a plot level area-based method (68% overall accuracy). The explanation is most likely that the mini raster cell method is successful at classifying homogenous patches of tree species classes within a field plot, while classification based on plot level analysis requires one or several heterogeneous classes of mixed species forest. The mini raster cell method also results in a high-resolution tree species map. The small raster cells can be aggregated to estimate tree species composition for arbitrary areas, for example forest stands or area units corresponding to field plots.


Multispectral LiDAR; Tree species maps; Laser wavelengths; Laser light reflectance

Published in

International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
2021, Volume: 100, article number: 102334
Publisher: ELSEVIER