Airborne laser scanning as a tool for lowland flood plain vegetation monitoring

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Monitoring of three-dimensional floodplain vegetation structure is essential for ecological studies, as well as for hydrodynamic modeling of rivers. Height and density of submerged vegetation and density of emergent vegetation are the key characteristics from which roughness parameters in hydraulic models are derived. Airborne laser scanning is a technique with broad applications in vegetation structure mapping, which therefore may be a promising tool in monitoring floodplain vegetation for river management applications. This paper first provides an introduction to the laser scanning technique, and reviews previous studies on the extraction of vegetation height and density of forests, low vegetation and meadows or unvegetated areas. Reliable predictions using laser scan data have been reported for forest height (R2 = 0.64-0.98), parameters related to forest density, such as stem number, stem diameter, biomass, timber volume or basal area (R2 = 0.42-0.93), and herbaceous vegetation height (summer condition; R2 = 0.75-0.89). No empirical relations have been reported on density of herbaceous vegetation. Laser data of meadows and unvegetated areas show too much noise to predict vegetation structure correctly. In a case study for the lower Rhine river, the potential of laser scan mapping of vegetation structure was further explored for winter conditions. Three laser-derived metrics that are often reported in the literature have been applied to characterize local vertical distributions of laser reflections. The laser data clearly show the large structural differences both between and within vegetation units that currently are the basis of floodplain vegetation and roughness mapping. The results indicate that airborne laser scanning is a promising technique for extraction of 3D-structure of floodplain vegetation in winter, except for meadows and unvegetated areas.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHydrodynamic Roughness of Floodplain Vegetation Airborne Parameterization and Filed Validation
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2007

Publication series

NameNederlandse Geografische Studies
ISSN (Print)0169-4839


  • Airborne laser scanning
  • Floodplain vegetation
  • Model input
  • Vegetation structure


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