Forest mapping and monitoring using active 3D remote sensing
The main aim in forest mapping and monitoring is to produce accurate information for forest managers with the use of efficient methodologies. For example, it is important to locate harvesting sites and stands where forest operations should be carried out as well as to provide updates regarding forest growth, among other changes in forest structure. In recent years, remote sensing (RS) has taken a significant technological leap forward. It has become possible to acquire three-dimensional (3D),
... atially accurate information from forest resources using active RS methods. In practical applications, mainly 3D information produced by airborne laser scanning (ALS) has opened up groundbreaking potential in natural resource mapping and monitoring. In addition to ALS, new satellite radars are also capable of acquiring spatially accurate 3D information. The main objectives of the present study were to develop 3D RS methodologies for large-area forest mapping and monitoring applications. In substudy I, we aim to map harvesting sites, while in substudy II, we monitor changes in the forest canopy structure. In studies III-V, efficient mapping and monitoring applications were developed and tested. In substudy I, we predicted plot-level thinning maturity within the next 10-year planning period. Stands requiring immediate thinning were located with an overall accuracy of 83%-86% depending on the prediction method applied. The respective prediction accuracy for stands reaching thinning maturity within the next 10 years was 70%-79%. Substudy II addressed natural disturbance monitoring that could be linked to forest management planning when an ALS time series is available. The accuracy of the damaged canopy cover area estimate varied between -16.4% to 5.4%. Substudy II showed that changes in the forest canopy structure can be monitored with a rather straightforward method by contrasting bi-temporal canopy height models. In substudy III, we developed a RS-based forest inventory method where single-tree RS is used to acquire modelling data needed in area-based predictions. The method uses ALS data and is capable of producing accurate stand variable estimates even at the sub-compartment level. The developed method could be applied in areas with sparse road networks or when the costs of fieldwork must be minimized. The method is especially suitable for largearea biomass or stem volume mapping. Based on substudy IV, the use of stereo synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite data in the prediction of plotlevel forest variables appears to be promising for large-area applications. In the best case, the plot-level stem volume (VOL) was predicted with a relative error (RMSE%) of 34.9%. Typically, such a high level of prediction accuracy cannot be obtained using spaceborne RS data. Then, in substudy V, we compared the aboveground biomass and VOL estimates derived by radargrammetry to the ALS estimates. The difference between the estimation accuracy of ALS-based and TerraSAR X-based features was smaller than in any previous study in which ALS and different kinds of SAR materials have been compared. In this thesis, forest mapping and monitoring applications using active 3D RS were developed. Spatially accurate 3D RS enables the mapping of harvesting sites, the monitoring of changes in the canopy structure and even the making of a fully RS-based forest inventory. ALS is carried out at relatively low altitudes, which makes it relatively expensive per area unit, and other RS materials are still needed. Spaceborne stereo radargrammetry proved to be a promising technique to acquire additional 3D RS data efficiently as long as an accurate digital terrain model is available as a ground-surface reference.