Model Forest grant supports LiDAR study in Sierra Espuña

The progressive introduction of LiDAR technology in forest management allows us to integrate a huge amount of amazing and continuous 3D information of the forest in the decision-making processes. Since 2009 I have been working in the development of forestry LiDAR applications as a part of R&D department of Agresta S. Coop. and as a PhD student at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM). For this scientific visit I worked in Sierra Espuña Natural Park (Murcia Region) and in CESEFOR Foundation (Soria). I was supervised by Dr. Francisco Rodríguez Puerta of the R&D department of CESEFOR Foundation.

The focus of this study was to analyse the forest development in Sierra Espuña, member of the Mediterranean Model Forest Network, using two available sources of powerful information: the field sample plots of the Forest National Inventories (FNI) 2nd, 3rd and 4th and the LiDAR information from the project NatMUR 2008 conducted by the Environment Department from Murcia Region.

LiDAR_figura1_250.jpg : 68.87109375Kb

With a combination of FNI information and LiDAR data (captured in large areas) is possible to describe, in a spatially explicit way, the past, current and future condition of the main stand variables. In this study, a basal area variable has been chosen to describe the forest development. The plots were accomplished in the years 1987, 1999 and 2010 respectively. 740 plots of each of these national inventories have been selected across the region of Murcia, with Aleppo pine as the dominant species. The LiDAR data was aggregated in data sub-sets using a square lattice of 707,56 m2 (26,6 m side) for computing metrics at that spatial scale.

Data derived from LiDAR measurements and on-field measured data have been used to construct models for predicting basal area in the different years. The variables used as predictors were constructed based on the calculated LiDAR pulses’ metrics and digital elevation model metrics.

Applying the models generated in the whole Sierra Espuña Natural Park, we have produced maps of the evolution of this variable over the last 20 years (Figure 1). These maps allow us to easily detect the stands that have registered a larger basal area growth between the years 1987-1999, 1999-2010, or in the whole period 1987-2010. The integration of this high resolution and spatially continuous information in the decision-making processes can help to substantially improve the management and conservation of forest systems.

Another important aspect of this project was the dissemination of the results using Google Earth (Figure 2) as a virtual platform for general population.

Currently, and thanks to the MMF gLiDAR_figura2_300.jpg : 80.7119140625Kbrant, we are working in collaboration with CESEFOR foundation in the 3D visualization of the development of Sierra Espuña forest into Google Earth. This type of tool helps to bring the work of conservation and forest management to the general public, making forest management more participatory and accessible.

Figure 2.

I would like to thank the Mediterranean Model Forest Network (MMFN), the International Cooperation Department of CESEFOR Foundation and EFIMED (Mediterranean Regional Office of the European Forest Institute) for funding this work. I also thank Dr. Francisco Rodriguez Puerta for leading me on this grant as well as the technicians from Natmur project and Espacios Naturales of Murcia Region.

Mr Fernández-Landa's visit was funded through the Mediterranean Model Forest Grant Programme which promotes and supports research in or about Mediterranean Model Forests.

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