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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Individual tree detection and estimation of stem attributes with mobile laser scanning along boreal forest roads

Olofsson, Kenneth; Lindberg, Eva; Holmgren, Johan; Pires, Raul de Paula; Persson, Henrik Jan


The collection of field-reference data is a key task in remote sensing-based forest inventories. However, traditional methods of collection demand extensive personnel resources. Thus, field-reference data collection would benefit from more automated methods. In this study, we proposed a method for individual tree detection (ITD) and stem attribute estimation based on a car-mounted mobile laser scanner (MLS) operating along forest roads. We assessed its performance in six ranges with increasing mean distance from the roadside. We used a Riegl VUX1LR sensor operating with high repetition rate, thus providing detailed cross sections of the stems. The algorithm we propose was designed for this sensor configuration, identifying the cross sections (or arcs) in the point cloud and aggregating those into single trees. Furthermore, we estimated diameter at breast height (DBH), stem profiles, and stem volume for each detected tree. The accuracy of ITD, DBH, and stem volume estimates varied with the trees' distance from the road. In general, the proximity to the sensor of branches 0-10 m from the road caused commission errors in ITD and over estimation of stem attributes in this zone. At 50-60 m from roadside, stems were often occluded by branches, causing omissions and underestimation of stem attributes in this area. ITD's precision and sensitivity varied from 82.8% to 100% and 62.7% to 96.7%, respectively. The RMSE of DBH estimates ranged from 1.81 cm (6.38%) to 4.84 cm (16.9%). Stem volume estimates had RMSEs ranging from 0.0800 m(3) (10.1%) to 0.190 m(3) (25.7%), depending on the distance to the sensor. The average proportion of detected reference volume was highly affected by the performance of ITD in the different zones. This proportion was highest from 0 to 10 m (113%), a zone that concentrated most ITD commission errors, and lowest from 50 to 60 m (66.6%), mostly due to the omission errors in this area. In the other zones, the RMSE ranged from 87.5% to 98.5%. These accuracies are in line with those obtained by other state-of-the-art MLS and terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) methods. The car-mounted MLS system used has the potential to collect data efficiently in large-scale inventories, being able to scan approximately 80 ha of forests per day depending on the survey setup. This data collection method could be used to increase the amount of field-reference data available in remote sensing based forest inventories, improve models for area-based estimations, and support precision forestry development.


Stem diameter; Stem volume; Car-mounted; Automatic stem detection; MLS

Published in

ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
2022, Volume: 187, pages: 211-224
Publisher: ELSEVIER