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Harnessing laser technology to measure native forests

5 March 2023

The results of a recently completed, FWPA-supported collaborative research project have demonstrated the potential of using dense, 3D point cloud data to link tree and plot-level measurements in native forests, gathered using a mobile laser scanner (MLS), alongside airborne laser scanning (ALS) data.

Laser scanning native forests

Over the last two decades, the need for effective plantation forest resource management has been one of the main driving forces behind the adoption of ALS and MLS by industry.

However, less attention has been given to the use of these technologies in Australian native forests. Increasing recognition of the importance of native forests in providing ecological and social ecosystem services, in addition to economic benefits through timber harvest, has led to increased demand for quantitative information on their condition and ecological status, from industry and beyond.

Successful sustainable management of our native forests requires detailed information on forest structural diversity and composition, to gain an accurate sense of the arrangement and distribution of the vegetation elements within them. Therefore, the timely gathering of relevant metrics is a key component of monitoring, reporting and evaluation activities undertaken by forest managers. A collaborative 12-month scoping study was recently undertaken, led by Dr Christine Stone and Dr Sam Hislop of the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, in response to the increased demand from forest managers for effective ways to monitor and report on factors relating to the structure and composition of native forests.

Advanced technologies

The vast areas covered by Australian native forests present the need to implement multi-source methods that link traditionally gathered terrestrial tree and plot-level measurements collected through terrestrial laser scanning (TLS), alongside additional data acquired through modern terrestrial, airborne and satellite technologies.

The concept of an integrated, multi-source, multi-scale framework for monitoring large areas of native forest is fast becoming a reality through the adoption of rapidly advancing remote sensing technologies such as LiDAR (Light (laser) Detection and Ranging). These advanced laser scanners acquire accurate and precise 3D point cloud data from terrestrial scanners, drones, aircraft and even satellites.

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Source: ForWood Feb 23, FWPA

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