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Optimizing the remote detection of tropical rainforest structure with airborne lidar: leaf area profile sensitivity to pulse density and spatial sampling


Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) has been considered as a primary source to model the structure and function of a forest canopy through the indicators leaf area index (LAI) and vertical canopy profiles of leaf area density (LAD). However, little is known about the effects of the laser pulse density and the grain size (horizontal binning resolution) of the laser point cloud on the estimation of LAD profiles and their associated LAIs. Our objective was to determine the optimal values for reliable and stable estimates of LAD profiles from ALS data obtained over a dense tropical forest. Profiles were compared using three methods: Destructive field sampling, Portable Canopy profiling Lidar (PCL) and ALS. Stable LAD profiles from ALS, concordant with the other two analytical methods, were obtained when the grain size was less than 10 m and pulse density was high (>15 pulses m2). Lower pulse densities also provided stable and reliable LAD profiles when using an appropriate adjustment (coefficient K). We also discuss how LAD profiles might be corrected throughout the landscape when using ALS surveys of lower density, by calibrating with LAI measurements in the field or from PCL. Appropriate choices of grain size, pulse density and K provide reliable estimates of LAD and associated tree plot demography and biomass in dense forestecosystems. (AU)

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