The utility of terrestrial photogrammetry for assessment of tree volume and taper in boreal mixedwood forests

Image acquisition methodology used in this study.

This study showed that digital terrestrial photogrammetry is able to produce accurate estimates of stem volume and diameter across a range of species and tree sizes that showed strong correspondence when compared with traditional inventory techniques. This paper demonstrates the utility of the technology for characterizing trees in complex habitats such as boreal mixedwood forests.

Context Accurate knowledge of tree stem taper and volume are key components of forest inventories to manage and study forest resources. Recent developments have seen the increasing use of ground-based point clouds, including from digital terrestrial photogrammetry (DTP), to provide accurate estimates of these key forest attributes.
Aims In this study, we evaluated the utility of DTP based on a small set of photos (12 per tree) for estimating stem volume and taper on a set of 15 trees from 6 different species (Populus tremuloides, Picea glauca, Pinus contorta latifolia, Betula papyrifera, Picea mariana, Abies balsamea) in a boreal mixedwood forest in Alberta, Canada.
Methods We constructed accurate photogrammetric point clouds and derived taper and volume from three point cloud–based methods, which were then compared with estimates from conventional, field-based measurements. All methods were evaluated for their accuracy based on field-measured taper and volume of felled trees.
Results Of the methods tested, we found that the point cloud–derived diameters in a taper curve matching approach performed the best at estimating diameters at the lowest parts of the stem (< 30% of total tree height), while using known DBH and height provided more accurate estimates for the upper parts of the stem (> 50% of total height). Using the field-measured DBH and height as inputs to calculate stem volume yielded the most accurate predictions; however, these were not significantly different from the best point cloud-based estimates.
Conclusion The methodology confirmed that using a small set of photographs provided accurate estimates of individual tree DBH, taper, and volume across a range of species and size gradients (10.8–40.4 cm DBH).

Photogrammetry, Forest inventory, Taper, Volume, Point cloud

Open-access Publication
Mulverhill, C., Coops, N.C., Tompalski, P. et al. Annals of Forest Science (2019) 76: 83.

Data availability
An example point cloud showing DTP reconstruction of tree 11 can be found in the ResearchGate repository (Mulverhill et al. 2019) at Additionally, a web viewer showing this tree can be found at

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