Quantifying the Earth’s forest above-ground biomass (AGB) is indispensable for effective climate action and developing forest policy. Yet, current allometric scaling models (ASMs) to estimate AGB suffer several drawbacks related to model selection and uncertainties about calibration data traceability. Terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) offers a promising non-destructive alternative. Tree volume is reconstructed from TLS point clouds with quantitative structure models (QSMs) and converted to AGB with wood basic density. Earlier studies have found overall TLS-derived forest volume estimates to be accurate, but highlighted problems for reconstructing finer branches. Demol et al. aimed to evaluate TLS for estimating tree volumes by comparison with reference volumes and volumes from ASMs.
The authors quantified the woody volume of 65 trees in Belgium (from 77 to 2800 L; Pinus sylvestris, Fagus sylvatica, Larix decidua, and Fraxinus excelsior) with QSMs and destructive reference measurements. We tested a volume expansion factor (VEF) approach by multiplying the solid and merchantable volume from QSMs by literature VEF values.
VEF-augmented QSMs were only slightly better than original QSMs for estimating tree volume for common species in temperate forests. Despite satisfying estimates with ASMs, the model choice was a large source of uncertainty, and species-specific models did not always exist. Therefore, Demol et al. advocate for further improving tree volume reconstructions with QSMs, especially for fine branches, instead of collecting more ground-truth data to calibrate VEF and allometric models. Promising developments such as improved co-registration and smarter filtering approaches are ongoing to further constrain volumetric errors in TLS-derived estimates.
Demol, M., Calders, K., Verbeeck, H., Gielen, B., 2021. Forest above-ground volume assessments with terrestrial laser scanning: a ground-truth validation experiment in temperate, managed forests. Annals of Botany. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcab110