New software developed by the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) can generate maps of forest areas with information on timber volume, biomass or height of the trees, among other variables.
The development of this software by the Group of Geoenvironmental Cartography and Remote Sensing is part of the INFOREST project coordinated by COTESA (Center for Observation and Spatial Remote Sensing S.A.U) and funded by the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade. The other teams that have taken part in the research are the Social Capital Group and Sustainable Development at the University of Castilla-La Mancha and the Group of Inventory and Natural Resources Management at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.
According to Luis Ángel Ruiz, researcher at the UPV, this project has yielded key information for management of forests using data from Earth Observation at local, provincial and regional levels. He also states that its results are particularly relevant to ensure optimal maintenance and exploitation of forests from an ecological point of view.
The software integrates the entire LiDAR data treatment process (which was also developed by the researchers) from the generation of digital terrain models, feature extraction and model estimation of forest variables, to obtain the final maps.
'From airborne LiDAR data and software application, we generate maps that can improve knowledge about the evolution of a forest, how its structure and characteristics change, as well as its potential to absorb CO2 and its wood volume. All this has positive effects on its maintenance, fire prevention or sustainable use,' says Luis Ángel Ruiz.
LIDAR technology (Light Detection And Ranging) works by continuously sending energy pulses to the ground, that impact on Earth's surface and return to the sensor. The return time allows registering the position and coordinates of the recorded points and, therefore, measures terrain, vegetation, buildings and other elements in 3D. The final point cloud data can be processed and analyzed for use in various applications, including the study of forest stands.
To develop this procedure, the scientists conducted a comprehensive field survey and airborne LiDAR data was acquired in a mountain area of 4,100 hectares, located in the municipality of Cuenca (Spain), primarily with three species of pine: Pinus nigra, Pinus sylvestris and Pinus pinaster, in addition to shrubland and bare ground. Given the importance of forest management in the area, the project has been backed by the City of Cuenca and the Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha.
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