Airborne laser scanning for vegetation structure quantification in a south east Australian scrubby forest-woodland

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Abstract

Airborne laser scanning (ALS) has the potential to capture a range vegetation structural metrics, but most studies have focussed on conifer or mixed conifer-deciduous cool-temperate or boreal forests. This study focuses on a warm-temperate eucalypt forest, where two epochs of ALS data, captured approximately 2 years apart, were compared with plot and transect field data collected after the second ALS epoch. Linear regression was used to compare metrics from field and ALS data, and Student's t-tests were used to compare metrics from the two ALS epochs. Statistically significant relationships were found for tree height (R2 = 0.915; SE = 2.08 m; P < 0.01) and canopy cover (R2 = 0.508; SE = 16.4%; P < 0.01). Foliage projective cover was also significantly correlated (R2 = 0.916; SE = 4.5%; P < 0.01) at a 10-m stratification, but not at the typically computed 2-m stratification, because of the presence of a tall scrubby understorey. Statistically significant values were also obtained from ALS data captured 2 years earlier, although correlation was not as strong, most likely because of the greater interval between fieldwork and ALS capture. Importantly, significant agreement was found for all metrics when the two ALS epochs were compared, suggesting that the metrics are robust.

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