A Comparison of Forest Tree Crown Delineation from Unmanned Aerial Imagery Using Canopy Height Models vs. Spectral Lightness

Academic Article


  • Improvements in computer vision combined with current structure-from-motion photogrammetric methods (SfM) have provided users with the ability to generate very high resolution structural (3D) and spectral data of the forest from imagery collected by unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The products derived by this process are capable of assessing and measuring forest structure at the individual tree level for a significantly lower cost compared to traditional sources such as LiDAR, satellite, or aerial imagery. Locating and delineating individual tree crowns is a common use of remotely sensed data and can be accomplished using either UAS-based structural or spectral data. However, no study has extensively compared these products for this purpose, nor have they been compared under varying spatial resolution, tree crown sizes, or general forest stand type. This research compared the accuracy of individual tree crown segmentation using two UAS-based products, canopy height models (CHM) and spectral lightness information obtained from natural color orthomosaics, using maker-controlled watershed segmentation. The results show that single tree crowns segmented using the spectral lightness were more accurate compared to a CHM approach. The optimal spatial resolution for using lightness information and CHM were found to be 30 and 75 cm, respectively. In addition, the size of tree crowns being segmented also had an impact on the optimal resolution. The density of the forest type, whether predominately deciduous or coniferous, was not found to have an impact on the accuracy of the segmentation.
  • Authors

  • Gu, Jianyu
  • Grybas, Heather
  • Congalton, Russell
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • June 2020
  • Published In

  • Forests  Journal
  • Keywords

  • canopy height model
  • individual tree crown
  • segmentation
  • unmanned aerial systems
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 605
  • End Page

  • 605
  • Volume

  • 11
  • Issue

  • 6