Tree species classification using airborne LiDAR – effects of stand and tree parameters, downsizing of training set, intensity normalization, and sensor type
Silva Fennica 44(2): 319339
Tree species identification constitutes a bottleneck in remote sensing-based forest inventory. In passive images the differentiating features overlap and bidirectional reflectance hampers analysis. Airborne LiDAR provides radiometric and geometric information. We examined the single-trees-level response of two LiDAR sensors in over 13 000 forest trees in southern Finland. We focused on the commercially important species. Our aims were to 1) explore the relevant LiDAR features and study their dependencies on stand and tree variables, 2) examine two sensors and their fusion, 3) quantify the gain from intensity normalizations, 4) examine the importance of the size of the training set, and 5) determine the effects of stand age and site fertility. A set of 570 semiurban broad-leaved trees and exotic conifers was analyzed to 6) examine the LiDAR signal in the economically less important species. An accuracy of 88 90% was achieved in the classification of Scots pine, Norway spruce, and birch, using intensity variables. Spruce and birch showed the highest levels of confusion. Downsizing the training set from 30% to 2.5% of all trees had only a marginal effect on the performance of classifiers. The intensity features were dependent on the absolute and relative sizes of trees, especially for birch. The results suggest that leaf size, orientation, and foliage density affect the intensity, which is thus not affected by reflectance only. Some of the ecologically important species in Finland may be separable, since they gave rise to high intensity values. Comparison of the sensors implies that performance of the intensity data for species classification varies between sensors for reasons that remained uncertain. Both range and gain receiver normalization improved species classification. Weighting of the intensity values improved the fusion of two LiDAR datasets.
Received 11 September 2009 Revised 11 January 2010 Accepted 8 March 2010