PS 53-174 - Secondary forest succession quantification using LIDAR analysis in the southern Appalachians

Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Tucker J. Souther1, Robbie G. Kreza1, Marcus C. Mentzer1, Brian D. Kloeppel1 and Ryan E. Emanuel2, (1)Geosciences and Natural Resources, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC, (2)Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

Secondary forest succession is an important ecosystem process that occurs as forests regenerate naturally after disturbance. As forests undergo succession, the mass of carbon stored within the ecosystem changes. Our study site was located within the Balsam Mountain Preserve in the southern Appalachian region of western North Carolina. The goal of this project was to determine if airplane based LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data could be used to accurately predict tree height. This in turn would facilitate the use of allometric equations to estimate aboveground biomass and carbon storage which varies by successional stage. Tree height, forest density, forest basal area, and species distribution were measured in the field. LIDAR predicted tree height was compared to field collected tree height.  Leaf area index was measured indirectly using a leaf area meter (i.e. LAI 2000). To assess the accuracy of the LIDAR data, four forest stands of similar species composition (deciduous montane mixed oak-hickory forest), in different successional stages (30, 50, 70, and 90+ years since disturbance) were utilized for our measurements.


Dominant tree height was 23.5 m in the 30 year-old stand and increased to 29.5 m in the 90 year-old stand. LIDAR data underestimated tree height by 7 to 25% depending upon stand age. We found that basal area ranged from 35.0 to 48.8 m2ha-1 and peaked in the 90 year-old stand. Forest density ranged from 850 to 2000 stems ha-1 and peaked in the 30 year-old stand. Leaf area index was measured on 06 October 2010 before leaf color change and was 3.26, 4.16, 4.01, and 3.51 in the 30, 50, 70, and 90 year-old stands, respectively.

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