Accuracy comparison of terrestrial and airborne laser scanning and manual measurements for stem curve-based growth measurements of individual trees

Valtteri Soininen, Eric Hyyppä, Jesse Muhojoki, Ville Luoma, Harri Kaartinen, Matti Lehtomäki, Antero Kukko, Juha Hyyppä

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikelVetenskapligPeer review


Monitoring forest growth accurately is important for assessing and controlling forest carbon stocks that impact, for example, the atmospheric CO2 concentration and, consequently, the climate change. In prior studies, forest growth monitoring with laser scanning methods has resulted in relatively high errors. However, the contribution of reference measurement error to uncertainty in growth resolution has rarely been analysed, and the reference measurements are usually considered mostly flawless. In this study, a seven-year-long growth of individual trees was estimated using both airborne and terrestrial laser scanning (ALS, TLS) that have emerged as potential candidates for digital forest reference measurements. The growth values were derived for diameter at breast height (DBH) and stem volume between the years 2014 and 2021 using an indirect approach. The values obtained with laser scanning were paired with manual field measurements and also with each other to study pairwise errors. The pairwise comparison showed that even though all the three measurement methods produced good Pearson correlation coefficients for one-time measurements (all above 0.88), the coefficients for growth measurements were significantly lower (0.19–0.44 for DBH and 0.47–0.66 for stem volume). The best correlation and root mean squared deviation (RMSD) for DBH growth (ρ = 0.44, RMSD = 0.98 cm) and stem volume growth (ρ = 0.66, RMSD = 0.052 m3) was observed between the manual field measurements and the ALS-based growth measurement method, in which the tree stem curve was obtained from the 2021 point cloud, and the stem curve was predicted backwards for the year 2014 according to height growth. The ALS method suffered less from outlying values than the TLS-based growth measurement method, in which the growth was computed based on the difference of stem curves derived separately for the years 2014 and 2021. The study showed that observing the stem curve is a potential method for short-period growth monitoring. Using the pairwise comparison results, we further derived estimates for the mean and standard deviation of measurement error of each individual measurement method. For the manual measurements, the standard deviation of error was found to be approximately 0.4 cm for DBH growth and 0.03 m3 for volume growth, which were the lowest of the three methods but not by a large margin. This highlights the need for more accurate reference data as the accuracy of laser scanning-based growth estimation methods continues to approach the accuracy of manual measurements.

TidskriftScience of Remote Sensing
StatusPublicerad - juni 2024
MoE-publikationstypA1 Tidskriftsartikel-refererad

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