Understanding forest structure and how it is affected by management practices and natural events is a critical part of managing natural resources within the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Pinaleno Mountains of southeastern Arizona represent a Madrean sky island ecosystem and the last remaining habitat for the Mt. Graham red squirrel. This unique ecosystem is threatened by a general shift in species composition and forest structure as well as by high severity fires and insect infestations. Due to these factors, the Coronado National Forest has implemented a forest restoration effort using lidar (light detection and ranging) as a tool for identifying habitat and cataloging forest inventory variables at a landscape level. Forest inventory parameters were modeled by building regression models between forest inventory parameters measured on field plots and their associated lidar canopy metrics. Inventory parameters that could be successfully modeled with R2 values above 0.6 were calculated for the full extent of the lidar data. This created landscape GIS layers for inventory parameters such as biomass, basal area, Lorey's mean height, and timber volume. The resulting GIS inventory layers were qualitatively validated with local experts and conformed well to trends known to occur on the landscape. The layers are currently being used for additional analysis, project development, and monitoring.
Mitchell, Brent; Walterman, Mike; Mellin, Tom; Wilcox, Craig; Lynch, Ann M.; Anhold, John; Falk, Donald A.; Koprowski, John; Laes, Denise; Evans, Don; Fisk, Haans. 2012. Mapping vegetation structure in the Pinaleno Mountains using lidar-phase 3: Forest inventory modeling. RSAC-100007-RPT1. Salt Lake City, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Remote Sensing Applications Center. 17 p.