What does airborne LiDAR really measure in upland ecosystems?
Luscombe, David J.
Brazier, Richard E.
This is the pre-print version of the following article: Luscombe, D. J., Anderson, K., Gatis, N., Wetherelt, A., Grand-Clement, E. and Brazier, R. E. (2014), What does airborne LiDAR really measure in upland ecosystems?. Ecohydrol.. doi: 10.1002/eco.1527, which has been published in final form at http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/eco.1527
Airborne laser scanning systems (Light Detection And Ranging, LiDAR) are very well suited to the study of landscape and vegetation structure over large extents. Spatially distributed measurements describing the three-dimensional character of landscape surfaces and vegetation architecture can be used to understand eco-geomorphic and ecohydrological processes, and this is particularly pertinent in peatlands given the increasing recognition that these landscapes provide a variety of ecosystem services (water provision, flood mitigation and carbon sequestration). In using LiDAR data for monitoring peatlands, it is important to understand how well peatland surface structures (with fine length scales) can be described. Our approach integrates two laser scanning technologies, namely terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and airborne LiDAR surveys, to assess how effective airborne LiDAR is at measuring these fine-scale microtopographic ecohydrological structures. By combining airborne and TLS, we demonstrate an improved spatial understanding of the signal measured by the airborne LiDAR. Critically, results demonstrate that LiDAR digital surface models are subject to specific errors related to short-sward ecosystem structure, causing the vegetation canopy height and surface-drainage network depth to be underestimated. TLS is shown to be effective at describing these structures over small extents, allowing the information content and accuracy of airborne LiDAR to be understood and quantified more appropriately. These findings have important implications for the appropriate degree of confidence ecohydrologists can apply to such data when using them as a surrogate for field measurements. They also illustrate the need to couple LiDAR data with ground validation data in order to improve assessment of ecohydrological function in such landscapes. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
South West Water Ltd
University of Exeter
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Vol. 8 (4), pp. 584-594