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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Tree crown segmentation in three dimensions using density models derived from airborne laser scanning

Holmgren, Johan; Lindberg, Eva; Olofsson, Kenneth; Persson, Henrik J.

Abstract

This article describes algorithms to extract tree crowns using two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) segmentation. As a first step, a 2D-search detected the tallest trees but was unable to detect trees located below other trees. However, a 3D-search for local maxima of model fits could be used in a second step to detect trees also in lower canopy layers. We compared tree detection results from ALS carried out at 1450 m above ground level (high altitude) and tree detection results from ALS carried out at 150 m above ground level (low altitude). For validation, we used manual measurements of trees in ten large field plots, each with an 80 m diameter, in a hemiboreal forest in Sweden (lat. 58 degrees 28' N, long. 13 degrees 38' E). In order to measure the effect of using algorithms with different computational costs, we validated the tree detection from the 2D segmentation step and compared the results with the 2D segmentation followed by 3D segmentation of the ALS point cloud. When applying 2D segmentation only, the algorithm detected 87% of the trees measured in the field using high-altitude ALS data; the detection rate increased to 91% using low-altitude ALS data. However, when applying 3D segmentation as well, the algorithm detected 92% of the trees measured in the field using high-altitude ALS data; the detection rate increased to 99% using low-altitude ALS data. For all combinations of algorithms and data resolutions, undetected trees accounted for, on average, 0-5% of the total stem volume in the field plots. The 3D tree crown segmentation, which was using crown density models, made it possible to detect a large percentage of trees in multi-layered forests, compared with using only a 2D segmentation method.

Published in

International Journal of Remote Sensing
2022, Volume: 43, number: 1, pages: 299-329 Publisher: TAYLOR AND FRANCIS LTD