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Examining structural complexity of Scots pine trees : a comparison between terrestrial laser scanning and photogrammetric point clouds

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Title: Examining structural complexity of Scots pine trees : a comparison between terrestrial laser scanning and photogrammetric point clouds
Author(s): Tienaho, Noora
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry
Degree program: Master's Programme in Forest Sciences
Specialisation: Forest Ecology and Management
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2021
Structural complexity of trees is related to various ecological processes and ecosystem services. It can also improve the forests’ ability to adapt to environmental changes. In order to implement the management for complexity and to estimate its functionality, the level of structural complexity must be defined. The fractal-based box dimension (Db) provides an objective and holistic way to define the structural complexity for individual trees. The aim of this study was to compare structural complexity of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) trees measured by two remote sensing techniques, namely, terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and aerial imagery acquired with unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Structural complexity for each Scots pine tree (n=2065) was defined by Db-values derived from the TLS and UAV measured point clouds. TLS produced the point clouds directly whereas UAV imagery was converted into point clouds with structure from motion (SfM) technology. The premise was that TLS provides the best available information on Db-values as the point density is higher in TLS than in UAV, and be-cause TLS is able to penetrate vegetation. TLS and UAV measured Db-values were found to significantly differ from each other and, thus, the techniques did not provide comparable information on structural complexity of individual Scots pine trees. On average, UAV measured Db-values were 5% bigger than TLS measured. The divergence between the TLS and UAV measured Db-values was found to be explained by the differences in the number and distribution of the points in the point clouds and by the differences in the estimated tree heights and number of boxes in the box dimension method. Forest structure (two thinning intensities, three thinning types and a control group) significantly affected the variation of both TLS and UAV measured Db-values. However, the divergence between TLS and UAV measured Db-values remained in all the treatments. In terms of the individual tree detection, the number of obtained points in the point cloud, and the distribution of these points, UAV measurements were better when the forest structure was sparser. In conclusion, while aerial imaging is a continuously developing study area and provides many advantageous attributes, at the moment, the TLS methods still dominate in accuracy when measuring the structural complexity at the tree-level. In the future, it should be studied whether TLS and UAV could be used as complementary techniques to provide more accurate and holistic view of the structural complexity in the perspective of both tree- and stand-level.
Keyword(s): Structural complexity box dimension remote sensing terrestrial laser scanning photogrammetric point cloud aerial imagery structure from motion unmanned aerial vehicle Scots pine

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