Evaluating the accuracy of ALS-based removal estimates against actual logging data

Key message

We examined the accuracy of the stand attribute data based on airborne laser scanning (ALS) provided by the Finnish Forest Centre. The precision of forest inventory data was compared for the first time with operative logging data measured by the harvester.


Context Airborne laser scanning (ALS) is increasingly used together with models to predict the stand attributes of boreal forests. The information is updated by growth models. Information produced by remote sensing, model prediction, and growth simulation needs field verification. The data collected by harvesters on logging sites provide a means to evaluate and verify the accuracy of the ALS-based data.
Aims This study investigated the accuracy of ALS-based forest inventory data provided by the Finnish Forest Centre at the stand level, using harvester data as the reference. Special interest was on timber assortment volumes where the quality reductions of sawlog are model predictions in ALS-based data and true realized reductions in the logging data.
Methods We examined the accuracy of total volume and timber assortment volumes by comparing ALS-based data and operative logging data measured by a harvester. This was done both for clear cuttings and thinning sites. Accuracy of the identification of the dominant tree species of the stand was examined using the Kappa coefficient.
Results In clear-felling sites, the total harvest removals based on ALS and model prediction had a RMSE% of 26.0%. In thinning, the corresponding difference in the total harvested removal was 42.4%. Compared to logged volume, ALS-based prediction overestimated sawlog removals in clear cuttings and underestimated pulpwood removals.
Conclusion The study provided valuable information on the accuracy of ALS-based stand attribute data. Our results showed that ALS-based data need better methods to predict the technical quality of harvested trees, to avoid systematic overestimates of sawlog volume. We also found that the ALS-based estimates do not accurately predict the volume of trees removed in actual thinnings.

Reliability; Airborne laser scanning; Operational forest inventory; Clear cutting; Thinning

Vähä-Konka, V., Maltamo, M., Pukkala, T. et al. Evaluating the accuracy of ALS-based removal estimates against actual logging data. Annals of Forest Science 77, 84 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13595-020-00985-7

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Data availability
The data that support the findings of this study are available from Metsäkeskus and Stora Enso but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study, and so are not publicly available. Data are however available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of Stora Enso.

Handling Editor
Jean-Michel Leban

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