Stratification of vertical canopy structure to improve estimation of forest inventory attributes using airborne LiDAR data in a large subtropical region of China


  • Mei Zhou School of Computer, Electronic and Information, Guangxi University, Nanning, China
  • Chungan Li Forestry College of Guangxi University, Nanning, China
  • Zhen Li Guangxi Forest Inventory and Planning Institute, Nanning, China
  • Zhu Yu Guangxi Forest Inventory and Planning Institute, Nanning, China
  • Xiangbei Zhou Guangxi Natural Resources Vocational and Technical College, Fushui, China



Over the last two decades, airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) has been developed into an advanced tool for practical forest resource inventory monitoring over large areas. Nonetheless, improving the accuracy of forest inventory attribute estimations remains an ongoing challenge. This paper introduces a novel framework for estimating forest inventory attributes based on the stratification of vertical forest structures (VFS). According to the composition and spatial arrangement of the superior, middle, and inferior strata in the tree layer, the forest stand was classified into six distinct VFS classes. Subsequently, the multiplicative power models were established for the stratification-based estimations of the forest inventory attributes, including stand volume (VOL), basal area (BA), and above-ground biomass (AGB), by using a rule-based exhaustive combination approach, and their performances were comparatively analyzed. The result indicated that: compared to the accuracy (relative root mean squared error, rRMSE) of the species-based estimation, the weighted average rRMSE of stratum-based VOL, BA, and AGB estimations of four forest types (Chinese fir, Masson pine, eucalyptus, and broadleaf forests) decreased by 0.3%–7.3%, +3.6%–9.4%, and 0.7%–8.7%, respectively, and the accuracy was significantly improved after stratification. Even after clustering the VFS into two or three classes using cluster analysis, the accuracy of forest attribute estimations remained superior to that of the species-based estimations. Notably, the coefficients of variation for both forest attributes and LiDAR metrics experienced a substantial decrease, and their statistical relationship considerably strengthened within most strata post-VFS classification, which led to an improvement in the accuracy of the forest attribute estimations. The methodology presented in this paper provides a significant advance in improving the accuracy of forest inventory attributes for large areas using airborne LiDAR data.


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Research article