VOXEL-BASED APPROACH FOR ESTIMATING URBAN TREE VOLUME FROM TERRESTRIAL LASER SCANNING DATA
Keywords: Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS), Forestry, High Resolution Data Acquisition, Automation, Data Modelling
Abstract. The importance of single trees and the determination of related parameters has been recognized in recent years, e.g. for forest inventories or management. For urban areas an increasing interest in the data acquisition of trees can be observed concerning aspects like urban climate, CO2 balance, and environmental protection. Urban trees differ significantly from natural systems with regard to the site conditions (e.g. technogenic soils, contaminants, lower groundwater level, regular disturbance), climate (increased temperature, reduced humidity) and species composition and arrangement (habitus and health status) and therefore allometric relations cannot be transferred from natural sites to urban areas. To overcome this problem an extended approach was developed for a fast and non-destructive extraction of branch volume, DBH (diameter at breast height) and height of single trees from point clouds of terrestrial laser scanning (TLS). For data acquisition, the trees were scanned with highest scan resolution from several (up to five) positions located around the tree. The resulting point clouds (20 to 60 million points) are analysed with an algorithm based on voxel (volume elements) structure, leading to an appropriate data reduction. In a first step, two kinds of noise reduction are carried out: the elimination of isolated voxels as well as voxels with marginal point density. To obtain correct volume estimates, the voxels inside the stem and branches (interior voxels) where voxels contain no laser points must be regarded. For this filling process, an easy and robust approach was developed based on a layer-wise (horizontal layers of the voxel structure) intersection of four orthogonal viewing directions. However, this procedure also generates several erroneous "phantom" voxels, which have to be eliminated. For this purpose the previous approach was extended by a special region growing algorithm. In a final step the volume is determined layer-wise based on the extracted branch areas Ai of this horizontal cross-section multiplied by the thickness of the voxel layer. A significant improvement of this method could be obtained by a reasonable determination of the threshold for excluding sparsely filled voxels for noise reduction which can be defined based on the function change of filled voxels. Field measurements were used to validate this method. For a quality assessment nine deciduous trees were selected for control and were scanned before felling and weighing. The results are in good accordance to the control trees within a range of only -5.1% to +14.3%. The determined DBH values show only minor deviations, while the heights of trees are systematically underestimated, mainly due to field measurements. Possible error sources including gaps in surface voxels, influence of thin twigs and others are discussed in detail and several improvements of this approach are suggested. The advantages of the algorithm are the robustness and simple structure as well as the quality of the results obtained. The drawbacks are the high effort both in data acquisition and analysis, even if a remarkable data reduction can be obtained by the voxel structure.