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Evaluation of automated pipelines for tree and plot metric estimation from TLS data in tropical forest areas

Abstract : Background and aims :Terrestrial LiDAR scanning (TLS) data are of great interest in forest ecology and management because they provide detailed 3D information on tree structure. Automated pipelines are increasingly used to process TLS data and extract various tree- and plot-level metrics. With these developments comes the risk of unknown reliability due to an absence of systematic output control. In the present study, we evaluated the estimation errors of various metrics, such as the wood volume, at the tree and plot levels for four automated pipelines. Methods: We used TLS data collected from a 1-ha plot of tropical forest, from which 391 trees above 10 cm in diameter were fully processed using human assistance to obtain control data for tree- and plot-level metrics. Key results: Our results showed that fully automated pipelines led to median relative errors in the quantitative structural model (QSM) volume ranging from 39% to 115% at the tree level and 10% to 134% at the 1-ha plot level. For tree-level metrics, the median error for the crown-projected area ranged from 46% to 59%, and that for the crown-hull volume varied from 72% to 88%. This result suggests that the tree isolation step is the weak link in automated pipeline methods. We further analysed how human assistance with automated pipelines can help reduce the error in the final QSM volume. At the tree scale, we found that isolating trees using human assistance reduced the error in the wood volume by a factor of ten. At the 1-ha plot scale, locating trees with human assistance reduced the error by a factor of three. Conclusions: Our results suggest that in complex tropical forests, fully automated pipelines may provide relatively unreliable metrics at the tree and plot levels, but limited human assistance inputs can significantly reduce errors.
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Contributor : Yannick Brohard <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, April 28, 2021 - 2:45:39 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, April 29, 2021 - 3:35:22 AM




Olivier Martin-Ducup, Gislain Mofack, Di Wang, Pasi Raumonen, Pierre Ploton, et al.. Evaluation of automated pipelines for tree and plot metric estimation from TLS data in tropical forest areas. Annals of Botany, Oxford University Press (OUP), In press, ⟨10.1093/aob/mcab051⟩. ⟨hal-03211127⟩



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