Using Airborne LiDAR to Detect and Characterize Individual Trees

Research Sponsored By: US Forest Service
Principal Investigator: L. Monika Moskal
Project Description
Western forests are in a continual state of change. Insects, prolonged drought conditions, and fire have caused stress and mortality at the stand and individual tree level. High-density LiDAR provides measurements at the individual tree and branch level and may be useful for assessing and mapping tree vigor over large land areas. A small number of published studies have looked into ways to identify and characterize individual trees and their condition using LiDAR data. However, most studies have not involved large land areas, a variety of forest types, and a mix of stress-causing agents. Preliminary analyses using data from southern California indicate that LiDAR data can be used to isolate and characterize individual trees and to assess their relative vigor. However, the methods require more testing and refinement before they can be applied to produce information useful for land managers tasked with planning activities over large land areas containing a mix of forest types and conditions. In this project, LiDAR scientists in PNW and SEFS will work together to develop, test, and refine methods aimed at identifying individual trees and assessing their condition. This project will utilize existing data as well as any new data that becomes available during the study period.