TRACKING FOREST AND OPEN AREA EFFECTS ON SNOW ACCUMULATION BY UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE PHOTOGRAMMETRY
Keywords: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, Digital Photogrammetry, Structure from Motion, Snow Depth, Leaf Area Index, Snowpack modelling
Abstract. Airborne digital photogrammetry is undergoing a renaissance. The availability of low-cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) platforms well adopted for digital photography and progress in software development now gives rise to apply this technique to different areas of research. Especially in determining snow depth spatial distributions, where repetitive mapping of cryosphere dynamics is crucial. Here, we introduce UAV-based digital photogrammetry as a rapid and robust approach for evaluating snow accumulation over small local areas (e.g., dead forest, open areas) and to reveal impacts related to changes in forest and snowpack. Due to the advancement of the technique, snow depth of selected study areas such as of healthy forest, disturbed forest, succession, dead forest, and of open areas can be estimated at a 1 cm spatial resolution. The approach is performed in two steps: 1) developing a high resolution Digital Elevation Model during snow-free and 2) during snow-covered conditions. By substracting these two models the snow depth can be accurately retrieved and volumetric changes of snow depth distribution can be achieved. This is a first proof-of-concept study combining snow depth determination and Leaf Area Index (LAI) retrieval to monitor the impact of forest canopy metrics on snow accumulation in coniferous forest within the Šumava National Park, Czech Republic. Both, downward-looking UAV images and upward-looking LAI-2200 canopy analyser measurements were applied to reveal the LAI, controlling interception and transmitting radiation. For the performance of downward-looking images the snow background instead of the sky fraction was used. In contrast to the classical determination of LAI by hemispherical photography or by LAI plant canopy analyser, our approach will also test the accuracy of LAI measurements by UAV that are taken simultaneously during the snow cover mapping campaigns. Since the LAI parameter is important for snowpack modelling, this method presents the potential of simplifying LAI retrieval and mapping of snow dynamics while reducing running costs and time.