Effects of plot size, stand density, and scan density on the relationship between airborne laser scanning metrics and the Gini coefficient of tree size inequality

Estimation of the Gini coefficient (GC) of tree sizes using airborne laser scanning (ALS) can provide maps of forest structure across the landscape, which can support sustainable forest management. A challenge arises in determining the optimal spatial resolution that maximizes the stability and precision of GC estimates, which in turn depends on stand density or ALS scan density. By subsampling different plot sizes within large field plots, we evaluated the optimal spatial resolution by observing changes in GC estimation and in its correlation with ALS metrics. We found that plot size had greater effects than either stand density or ALS scan density on the relationship between GC and ALS metrics. Uncertainty in GC estimates fell as plot size increased. Correlation with ALS metrics showed convex curves with maxima at 250–450 m2, which thus was considered the optimal plot size and, consequently, the optimal spatial resolution. By thinning the density of the ALS point cloud, we deduced that at least 3 points·m−2 were needed for reliable GC estimates. Many nationwide ALS scan densities are sparser than this, so may be unreliable for GC estimation. Ours is a simple approach for evaluating the optimal spatial resolution in remote sensing estimation of any forest attribute.

Adnan, S.; Maltamo, M.; Coomes, D.A.; Valbuena, R.

Canadian Journal of Forest Research 47 (12), 1590-1602
2017

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