Assessment of Stem Volume on Plots Using Terrestrial Laser Scanner: A Precision Forestry Application

Sensors (Basel). 2021 Jan 5;21(1):301. doi: 10.3390/s21010301.


Timber volume is an important asset, not only as an ecological component, but also as a key source of present and future revenues, which requires precise estimates. We used the Trimble TX8 survey-grade terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) to create a detailed 3D point cloud for extracting total tree height and diameter at breast height (1.3 m; DBH). We compared two different methods to accurately estimate total tree heights: the first method was based on a modified version of the local maxima algorithm for treetop detection, "HTTD", and for the second method we used the centers of stem cross-sections at stump height (30 cm), "HTSP". DBH was estimated by a computationally robust algebraic circle-fitting algorithm through hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA). This study aimed to assess the accuracy of these descriptors for evaluating total stem volume by comparing the results with the reference tree measurements. The difference between the estimated total stem volume from HTTD and measured stems was 2.732 m3 for European oak and 2.971 m3 for Norway spruce; differences between the estimated volume from HTSP and measured stems was 1.228 m3 and 2.006 m3 for European oak and Norway spruce, respectively. The coefficient of determination indicated a strong relationship between the measured and estimated total stem volumes from both height estimation methods with an R2 = 0.89 for HTTD and R2 = 0.87 for HTSP for European oak, and R2 = 0.98 for both HTTD and HTSP for Norway spruce. Our study has demonstrated the feasibility of finer-resolution remote sensing data for semi-automatic stem volumetric modeling of small-scale studies with high accuracy as a potential advancement in precision forestry.

Keywords: 3D point cloud; circle fitting; forest biometrics; hierarchical cluster analysis; managed forest; modeling stem volume; stem-level assessment.