Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Lei Wang; Andrew G. Birt; Charles W. Lafon; David M. Cairns; Robert N. Coulson; Maria D. Tchakerian; Weimin Xi; Sorin C. Popescu; James M. Guldin
    Date: 2013
    Source: Geoinformatica 17(1): 35-61
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Southern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (678.03 KB)


    Small Footprint LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) has been proposed as an effective tool for measuring detailed biophysical characteristics of forests over broad spatial scales. However, by itself LiDAR yields only a sample of the true 3D structure of a forest. In order to extract useful forestry relevant information, this data must be interpreted using mathematical models and computer algorithms that infer or estimate specific forest metrics. For these outputs to be useful, algorithms must be validated and/or calibrated using a sub-sample of ‘known’ metrics measured using more detailed, reliable methods such as field sampling. In this paper we describe a novel method for delineating and deriving metrics of individual trees from LiDAR data based on watershed segmentation. Because of the costs involved with collecting both LiDAR data and field samples for validation, we use synthetic LiDAR data to validate and assess the accuracy of our algorithm. This synthetic LiDAR data is generated using a simple geometric model of Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) trees and a simulation of LiDAR sampling. Our results suggest that point densities greater than 2 and preferably greater than 4 points per m2 are necessary to obtain accurate forest inventory data from Loblolly pine stands. However the results also demonstrate that the detection errors (i.e. the accuracy and biases of the algorithm) are intrinsically related to the structural characteristics of the forest being measured. We argue that experiments with synthetic data are directly useful to forest managers to guide the design of operational forest inventory studies. In addition, we argue that the development of LiDAR simulation models and experiments with the data they generate represents a fundamental and useful approach to designing, improving and exploring the accuracy and efficiency of LiDAR algorithms.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Wang, Lei; Birt, Andrew G.; Lafon, Charles W.; Cairns, David M.; Coulson, Robert N.; Tchakerian, Maria D.; Xi, Weimin; Popescu, Sorin C.; Guldin, James M. 2013. Computer-based synthetic data to assess the tree delineation algorithm from airborne LiDAR survey. Geoinformatica. 17(1): 35-61.


    computers, synthetic data, tree delineation, algorithm, LiDAR

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page