Rapid assessment of ponderosa pine structural conditions using mobile lidar

DogHairThicket from Andrew Sánchez Meador on Vimeo.

Often, managers need to assess forest structure or composition quickly, to provide information on existing conditions, to assist decision making, to evaluate treatment success, to collect auxiliary training data for remote sensing products or to provide hands-on experience that promotes shared learning among stakeholders. Recently, mobile lidar systems (MLS) including compact ultraportable systems in backpacks have been shown to produce ultra-dense point clouds (compared to airborne lidar systems) without the obstruction by canopy or tree boles, are easily deployable, and can access steep or challenging terrain where terrestrial lidar systems may not be possible.

We’re currently developing rapid forest assessment approaches for monitoring forest conditions that can also be implemented at large extents. Presently, we’re collect MLS data and automate the processing of these data to extract information on trees, regeneration, canopy and surface fuels, woody debris and snags, understory biomass, horizontal and vertical pattern, etc. The simplicity and efficiency of this MLS approach to rapid forest assessment make it ideally suited for collecting remote sensing training data or field inventory data and a useful tool for monitoring. The video above is of a 0.62ha area on the Coconino National Forest scanned in just under four minutes using the Zeb-Horizon in Feb. 2020.

Here’s the interactive verison

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