The influence of topographic variation on forest structure in two woody plant communities: A remote sensing approach

Sisira Ediriweera, Tim Danaher, Sumith Pathirana


Aim of study:  The study aimed to characterise variation in structural attributes of vegetation in relation to variations in topographic position using LIDAR data over landscapes.

Area of study: The study was conducted in open canopy eucalypt-dominated forest (Richmond Range National Park-RRNP) and closed canopy subtropical rainforest (Border Ranges National Park-BRNP) in north-eastern New South Wales, Australia.

Material and Methods: one metre resolution digital canopy height model (CHM) was extracted from the LIDAR data and used to estimate maximum overstorey height and crown area. LIDAR fractional cover representing the photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic component of canopy was calculated using LIDAR points aggregated into 50 m spatial bins. Potential solar insolation, Topographic Wetness Index (TWI), slope and the elevation were processed using LIDAR derived digital elevation models.

Main results: No relationship was found between maximum overstorey height and insolation gradient in the BRNP. Maximum overstorey height decreased with increasing insolation in the RRNP (R2 0.45). Maximum overstorey height increased with increasing TWI in the RRNP. Average crown area decreased with increasing insolation in both study areas. LIDAR fractional cover decreased with increasing insolation (R2 0.54), and increased with increasing TWI (R2 0.57) in the RRNP.

Research highlights: The characterization of structural parameters of vegetation in relation to the variation of the topography was possible in eucalyptus dominated open canopy forest.  No reportable difference in variation of structural elements of vegetation was detected with topographic variation of subtropical rainforest. 



Forest structure; remotely sensed data; LIDAR; topography; microclimate

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2016251-07123