Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (282 KB)

Title: A polar grid estimator of forest canopy structure metrics using airborne laser scanning data

Author: Vaughn, Nicholas R.; Asner, Greg P.; Giardina, Christian P.;

Date: 2013

Source: Remote Sensing Letters 34: 7464-7473

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: The structure of a forest canopy is the key determinant of light transmission, use and understory availability. Airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) has been used successfully to measure multiple canopy structural properties, thereby greatly reducing the fieldwork required to map spatial variation in structure. However, lidar metrics to date do not reflect the full extent of the three-dimensional information available from the data. To this end, we developed a new metric, the polar grid fraction (GRID), based on gridding lidar returns in polar coordinates, in order to more closely match measurements provided by field instruments on leaf area index (LAI), gap fraction (GF) and percentage photosynthetically active radiation transmittance (tPAR). The metric summarizes the arrangement of lidar point returns for a single ground location rather than to an area surrounding the location. Compared with more traditional proportion-based and height percentile-based estimators, the GRID estimator increased validation R2 by 14.5% for GF and 6.0% for tPAR over the next best estimator. LAI was still best estimated with the more traditional statistic based on the proportion of ground returns in 14 m × 14 m moving kernels. By applying the models to a 2 × 2 m grid across the lidar coverage area, extreme values occurred in the estimations of all three response variables when using proportion-based and height percentile-based estimators. However, no extreme values were estimated by models using the GRID estimator, indicating that models based on GRID may be less influenced by spurious data. These results suggest that the GRID estimator is a strong candidate for any project requiring estimates of canopy metrics for large areas.

Keywords: forest fragmentation, forest canopy, light interception

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Vaughn, Nicholas R.; Asner, Greg P.; Giardina, Christian P. 2013. A polar grid estimator of forest canopy structure metrics using airborne laser scanning data. Remote Sensing Letters 34: 7464-7473.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.