Evaluating the Capability of Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Imagery to Detect and Measure the Effects of Edge Influence on Forest Canopy Cover in New England

Academic Article


  • Characterizing and measuring the extent of change at forest edges is important for making management decisions, especially in the face of climate change, but is difficult due to the large number of factors that can modify the response. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) imagery may serve as a tool to detect and measure the forest response at the edge quickly and repeatedly, thus allowing a larger amount of area to be covered with less work. This study is a preliminary attempt to utilize UAS imagery to detect changes in canopy cover, known to exhibit changes due to edge influences, across forest edges in a New England forest. Changes in canopy cover with increasing distance from the forest edge were measured on the ground using digital cover photography and from photogrammetric point clouds and imagery-based maps of canopy gaps produced with UAS imagery. The imagery-based canopy gap products were significantly more similar to ground estimates for canopy cover (p value > 0.05) than the photogrammetric point clouds, but still suffered overestimation (RMSE of 0.088) due to the inability to detect small canopy openings. Both the ground and UAS data were able to detect a decrease in canopy cover to between 45–50 m from the edge, followed by an increase to 100 m. The UAS data had the advantage of a greater sampling intensity and was thus better able to detect a significant edge effect of minimal magnitude effect in the presence of heavy variability.
  • Authors

  • Grybas, Heather
  • Congalton, Russell
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • September 2021
  • Published In

  • Forests  Journal
  • Keywords

  • New Hampshire
  • UAS
  • canopy cover
  • edge effects
  • forest edge
  • fragmentation
  • remote sensing
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 1252
  • End Page

  • 1252
  • Volume

  • 12
  • Issue

  • 9