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Weighing trees with lasers: Advances, challenges and opportunities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Article number20170048
JournalInterface Focus
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2018
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) is providing exciting new ways to quantify tree and forest structure, particularly above-ground biomass (AGB). We show how TLS can address some of the key uncertainties and limitations of current approaches to estimating AGB based on empirical allometric scaling equations (ASEs) that underpin all large-scale estimates of AGB. TLS provides extremely detailed non-destructive measurements of tree form independent of tree size and shape. We show examples of three-dimensional (3D) TLS measurements from various tropical and temperate forests and describe how the resulting TLS point clouds can be used to produce quantitative 3D models of branch and trunk size, shape and distribution. These models can drastically improve estimates of AGB, provide new, improved large-scale ASEs, and deliver insights into a range of fundamental tree properties related to structure. Large quantities of detailed measurements of individual 3D tree structure also have the potential to open new and exciting avenues of research in areas where difficulties of measurement have until now prevented statistical approaches to detecting and understanding underlying patterns of scaling, form and function. We discuss these opportunities and some of the challenges that remain to be overcome to enable wider adoption of TLS methods.


  • Above-ground biomass, Buttress, Canopy, Lidar, Structure, Terrestrial laser scanning

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Field of science, Statistics Finland

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