A graph cut approach to 3D tree delineation, using integrated airborne LiDAR and hyperspectral imagery

Recognising individual trees within remotely sensed imagery has important applications in forest ecology and management. Several algorithms for tree delineation have been suggested, mostly based on locating local maxima or inverted basins in raster canopy height models (CHMs) derived from Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) data or photographs. However, these algorithms often lead to inaccurate estimates of forest stand characteristics due to the limited information content of raster CHMs. Here we develop a 3D tree delineation method which uses graph cut to delineate trees from the full 3D LiDAR point cloud, and also makes use of any optical imagery available (hyperspectral imagery in our case). First, conventional methods are used to locate local maxima in the CHM and generate an initial map of trees. Second, a graph is built from the LiDAR point cloud, fused with the hyperspectral data. For computational efficiency, the feature space of hyperspectral imagery is reduced using robust PCA. Third, a multi-class normalised cut is applied to the graph, using the initial map of trees to constrain the number of clusters and their locations. Finally, recursive normalised cut is used to subdivide, if necessary, each of the clusters identified by the initial analysis. We call this approach Multiclass Cut followed by Recursive Cut (MCRC). The effectiveness of MCRC was tested using three datasets: i) NewFor, ii) a coniferous forest in the Italian Alps, and iii) a deciduous woodland in the UK. The performance of MCRC was usually superior to that of other delineation methods, and was further improved by including high-resolution optical imagery. Since MCRC delineates the entire LiDAR point cloud in 3D, it allows individual crown characteristics to be measured. By making full use of the data available, graph cut has the potential to considerably improve the accuracy of tree delineation.

Lee, J. et al.

arXiv preprint arXiv:1701.06715
2017

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