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. 2012;7(3):e33927.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033927. Epub 2012 Mar 23.

A Macroecological Analysis of SERA Derived Forest Heights and Implications for Forest Volume Remote Sensing

Free PMC article

A Macroecological Analysis of SERA Derived Forest Heights and Implications for Forest Volume Remote Sensing

Matthew Brolly et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article

Erratum in

  • PLoS One. 2012;7(8): doi/10.1371/annotation/13754ad8-2763-439e-9dda-0ab882a8f203


Individual trees have been shown to exhibit strong relationships between DBH, height and volume. Often such studies are cited as justification for forest volume or standing biomass estimation through remote sensing. With resolution of common satellite remote sensing systems generally too low to resolve individuals, and a need for larger coverage, these systems rely on descriptive heights, which account for tree collections in forests. For remote sensing and allometric applications, this height is not entirely understood in terms of its location. Here, a forest growth model (SERA) analyzes forest canopy height relationships with forest wood volume. Maximum height, mean, H₁₀₀, and Lorey's height are examined for variability under plant number density, resource and species. Our findings, shown to be allometrically consistent with empirical measurements for forested communities world-wide, are analyzed for implications to forest remote sensing techniques such as LiDAR and RADAR. Traditional forestry measures of maximum height, and to a lesser extent H₁₀₀ and Lorey's, exhibit little consistent correlation with forest volume across modeled conditions. The implication is that using forest height to infer volume or biomass from remote sensing requires species and community behavioral information to infer accurate estimates using height alone. SERA predicts mean height to provide the most consistent relationship with volume of the height classifications studied and overall across forest variations. This prediction agrees with empirical data collected from conifer and angiosperm forests with plant densities ranging between 10²-10⁶ plants/hectare and heights 6-49 m. Height classifications investigated are potentially linked to radar scattering centers with implications for allometry. These findings may be used to advance forest biomass estimation accuracy through remote sensing. Furthermore, Lorey's height with its specific relationship to remote sensing physics is recommended as a more universal indicator of volume when using remote sensing than achieved using either maximum height or H₁₀₀.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Abies Alba Hmax over 100 years against stand volume.
Larger circles represent larger number densities varying from the original planting density values denoted in legend as a result of new growth and mortality.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Abies Alba Hmean against stand volume over a period of 100 years.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Abies Alba HLorey against stand volume over a period of 100 years.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Hmax within forests of initial planting density of 10000 stems ha.−1 plotted alongside Hmean values where indicated in the legend.
Figure 5
Figure 5. HLorey against forest volume for planting densities of 10,000 ha.−1.
Figure 6
Figure 6. Hmean against forest volume for planting densities of 10000 ha−1.
Figure 7
Figure 7. HLorey against stem biomass density for planting densities of 10,000 ha−1.
Figure 8
Figure 8. Height data for all featured forest configurations under the same environmental conditions of light intensity and space.
Figure 9
Figure 9. Thinning with respect to age for Abies Alba and Generic Angiosperm.
Planting densities of 10000 ha−1. Light intensity variations shown in key.
Figure 10
Figure 10. Abies Alba stands of planting density 10000 ha−1 exposed to variations in light intensity (100%, 75%, 50%).
Data shown clockwise for Hmax, H100, HLorey and Hmean.
Figure 11
Figure 11. Bivariate log-log plot of tree Hmean against total stem, mass.
Data shown for conifers, angiosperm trees and palms documented in Cannell (1982) and Luo (1996).
Figure 12
Figure 12. Mod Lorey height for various planting densities of Abies Alba and Angiosperms.
Data also plotted for reduced light intensities (L) both for Abies Alba populations. All data plotted is taken from forests with fraction of forested area set as 1 ha. except for data represented by 50%A and 25%A. In these cases the fractional area is 0.5 and 0.25 respectively.

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