Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2004

Identifying species of individual trees using airborne laser scanner

Holmgren J, Persson A


Individual trees can be detected using high-density airborne laser scanner data. Also, variables characterizing the detected trees such as tree height, crown area, and crown base height can be measured. The Scandinavian boreal forest mainly consists of Norway spruce (Picea abies L. Karst.), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.), and deciduous trees. It is possible to separate coniferous from deciduous trees using near-infrared images, but pine and spruce give similar spectral signals. Airborne laser scanning, measuring structure and shape of tree crowns could be used for discriminating between spruce and pine. The aim of this study was to test classification of Scots pine versus Norway spruce on an individual tree level using features extracted from airborne laser scanning data. Field measurements were used for training and validation of the classification. The position of all trees on 12 rectangular plots (50 X 20 in 2) were measured in field and tree species was recorded. The dominating species (>80%) was Norway spruce for six of the plots and Scots pine for six plots. The field-measured trees were automatically linked to the laser-measured trees. The laser-detected trees on each plot were classified into species classes using all laser-detected trees on the other plots as training data. The portion correctly classified trees on all plots was 95%. Crown base height estimations of individual trees were also evaluated (r=0.84). The classification results in this study demonstrate the ability to discriminate between pine and spruce using laser data. This method could be applied in an operational context. In the first step, a segmentation of individual tree crowns is performed using laser data. In the second step, tree species classification is performed based on the segments. Methods could be developed in the future that combine laser data with digital near-infrared photographs for classification with the three classes: Norway spruce, Scots pine, and deciduous trees. (C) 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved


Laser; Tree detection; Species classification; Crown base height

Published in

Remote Sensing of Environment
2004, volume: 90, number: 4, pages: 415-423

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Resource Management
Åsa, Persson

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)