Aerial LiDAR and forest inventory monitoring

Aerial LiDAR systems capture 3D data of forests from above the canopy.

Aerial LiDAR systems capture 3D data of forests from above the canopy.

LiDAR (light detection and ranging) is a remote sensing technique that is based on measuring the time it takes a laser pulse to strike an object and return to the source. Typically, a laser scanner is flown in an airplane, the exact location of which is tracked by a GPS satellite. State-of-the-art scanners are capable of transmitting and receiving as many as 500,000 pulses of laser light per second, resulting in data that can be used to map the reflecting object in high three-dimensional detail.

Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) and its partners have become national leaders in the application of advanced technologies such as aerial LiDAR for forest inventory. CWFC researchers are working with industry and other partners across the country to help industry transform its management of fibre supply through the use of LiDAR.

Aerial LiDAR data are used to generate predictions of forest structure and wood fibre attributes across the landscape.

Aerial LiDAR data are used to generate predictions of forest structure and wood fibre attributes across the landscape.

For example, in Newfoundland and Labrador, a fibre inventory project is using aerial LiDAR and other technologies to identify and map various wood fibre properties, such as wood density and fibre dimensions and coarseness. Ultimately, the newly gathered information about fibre quality will add a new dimension to the existing forest inventory, which already contains information on a variety of land and tree attributes. The result will, in turn, enhance forest management activities and enable the industry to target specific source materials, thereby reducing production costs for wood fibre products.

Similar projects are taking place in Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta, developing applications of LiDAR and other technologies in enhanced forest inventory to meet specific operational and strategic needs.