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Tree density and forest productivity in a heterogeneous alpine environment: insights from airborne laser scanning and imaging spectroscopy


Fatehi, Parviz; Damm, Alexander; Leiterer, Reik; Pir Bavaghar, Mahtab; Schaepman, Michael E; Kneubühler, Mathias (2017). Tree density and forest productivity in a heterogeneous alpine environment: insights from airborne laser scanning and imaging spectroscopy. Forests, 8(6):212.

Abstract

We outline an approach combining airborne laser scanning (ALS) and imaging spectroscopy (IS) to quantify and assess patterns of tree density (TD) and forest productivity (FP) in a protected heterogeneous alpine forest in the Swiss National Park (SNP). We use ALS data and a local maxima (LM) approach to predict TD, as well as IS data (Airborne Prism Experiment—APEX) and an empirical model to estimate FP.We investigate the dependency of TD and FP on site related factors, in particular on surface exposition and elevation. Based on reference data (i.e., 1598 trees measured in 35 field plots), we observed an underestimation of ALS-based TD estimates of 40%. Our results suggest a limited sensitivity of the ALS approach to small trees as well as a dependency of TD estimates on canopy heterogeneity, structure, and species composition. We found a weak to moderate relationship between surface elevation and TD (R2 = 0.18–0.69) and a less pronounced trend with FP (R2 = 0.0–0.56), suggesting that both variables depend on gradients of resource availability. Further to the limitations faced in the sensitivity of the applied approaches, we conclude that the combined application of ALS and IS data was convenient for estimating tree density and mapping FP in north-facing forested areas, however, the accuracy was lower in south-facing forested areas covered with multi-stemmed trees.

Abstract

We outline an approach combining airborne laser scanning (ALS) and imaging spectroscopy (IS) to quantify and assess patterns of tree density (TD) and forest productivity (FP) in a protected heterogeneous alpine forest in the Swiss National Park (SNP). We use ALS data and a local maxima (LM) approach to predict TD, as well as IS data (Airborne Prism Experiment—APEX) and an empirical model to estimate FP.We investigate the dependency of TD and FP on site related factors, in particular on surface exposition and elevation. Based on reference data (i.e., 1598 trees measured in 35 field plots), we observed an underestimation of ALS-based TD estimates of 40%. Our results suggest a limited sensitivity of the ALS approach to small trees as well as a dependency of TD estimates on canopy heterogeneity, structure, and species composition. We found a weak to moderate relationship between surface elevation and TD (R2 = 0.18–0.69) and a less pronounced trend with FP (R2 = 0.0–0.56), suggesting that both variables depend on gradients of resource availability. Further to the limitations faced in the sensitivity of the applied approaches, we conclude that the combined application of ALS and IS data was convenient for estimating tree density and mapping FP in north-facing forested areas, however, the accuracy was lower in south-facing forested areas covered with multi-stemmed trees.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:09 Aug 2017 12:33
Last Modified:26 Apr 2018 07:08
Publisher:MDPI Publishing
ISSN:1999-4907
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3390/f8060212

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