Forest Investment Account

Abstract of FII Project R02-24

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Characterization of the vertical and horizontal patterns of forest canopy structure in natural and managed stands using a new-generation airborne laser scanner (LiDAR)

Author(s): Niemann, K. Olaf
Imprint: Prince George, B.C. : University of Northern British Columbia, 2003
Subject: Forests and Forestry, Research, British Columbia, Forest Inventory
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program


Understanding the structure and function of forest ecosystems and their interactions with other natural systems at stand, landscape and global scales is fundamental to the development of sustainable forest management practices in British Columbia. In the forests of northwestern North America, forest structure has become a key focus of research because of its significance for biodiversity and ecosystem function. Forest structure can be more directly addressed by silvicultural prescriptions and regulatory policy than other aspects of stand ecology, and thus has become strong management focus as well. Our research project specifically looks at the utility of discrete-return, airborne laser scanning systems (LiDAR) for fine-scale remote measurements of stand structure and its spatial diversity. The main objectives of this research are two-fold: (i) to demonstrate how LiDAR can be used as a reliable source of forest structure information to characterize and update selected forestry attribute data (i.e., heights, basal area, stem density, and volume) on a plot, polygon (stand), and land-holdings basis; (ii) to develop new, ecologically relevant LiDAR-based metrics (e.g., structural diversity) that will expand the range of traditional inventory measurements in support of sustainable forest management. The research outlined in this year-end operational report represents the work completed in year two of this three-year project. To-date, we have (i) processed, tiled, and archived LiDAR data collected by Mosaic Mapping Systems Inc. over approximately 80 km2 of natural forest (Sooke Lake watershed) and Weyerhaeuser-managed timberlands (Shawnigan Lake and Malahat) on southern Vancouver Island, (ii) constructed digital forest cover maps and databases for each of the three areas from existing GIS data, (iii) measured the height, diameter, height to live crown, species, crown class, and live or dead status for over 7,000 trees; collected 5600 LAI-2000 Plant Canopy Analyzer (PCA) gap fraction measurements; and 560 hemispherical photographs from the Sooke Lake watershed. We have recently received existing permanent plot and inventory data from Weyerhaeuser BC Coastal Group to support the inventory component of our study. We believe that this project may have significant impact on the way future operational inventories are undertaken in BC and elsewhere. Findings from this study could help reduce the overall costs of forest inventories, while improving the quality and kinds of new information required by forest managers and scientists today.
K. Olaf Niemann...[et al.]

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Updated August 02, 2006 

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