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LiDAR as an Advanced Remote Sensing Technology to Augment Ecosystem Classification and Mapping

Lorraine Campbell, Nicolas C. Coops, Sari C. Saunders


Observing landscape patterns at various temporal and spatial scales is central to classifying and mapping ecosystems. Traditionally, ecosystem mapping is undertaken through a combination of fieldwork and aerial photography interpretation. These methods, however, are time-consuming, prone to subjectivity, and difficult to update. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is an advanced remote sensing technology that has rapidly increased in application in the past decade and has the potential to significantly increase and refine information content of ecosystem mapping, especially in the vertical dimension. LiDAR technology is therefore well-suited to providing detailed information on topography and vegetation structure and has considerable potential to be used for ecosystem classification and mapping. In this article, the potential to use LiDAR data to advance ecosystem mapping is examined. The current state of the science for using LiDAR data to classify and map key ecosystem attributes within an existing ecosystem mapping scheme is discussed by focusing on British Columbia Terrestrial Ecosystem Mapping and its associated Predictive Ecosystem Mapping. The article concludes by summarizing which components of ecosystem mapping and classification are best suited to the application of LiDAR data, followed by a discussion of the feasibility and future directions for mapping ecosystems with LiDAR technology.


ALS-based ecosystem mapping; ecosystem classification; ecosystem mapping; ecosystem site unit; LiDAR-based ecosystem mapping; Predictive Ecosystem Mapping; Terrestrial Ecosystem Mapping

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