USDA Forest Service -- National Agroforestry Center


Date of this Version



Can. J. Remote Sensing, Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 153–161, 2006


We describe and evaluate a new analysis technique, spatial wavelet analysis (SWA), to automatically estimate the location, height, and crown diameter of individual trees within mixed conifer open canopy stands from light detection and ranging (lidar) data. Two-dimensional Mexican hat wavelets, over a range of likely tree crown diameters, were convolved with lidar canopy height models. Identification of local maxima within the resultant wavelet transformation image then allowed determination of the location, height, and crown diameters of individual trees. In this analysis, which focused solely on individual trees within open canopy forests, 30 trees incorporating seven dominant North American tree species were assessed. Two-dimensional (2D) wavelet-derived estimates were well correlated with field measures of tree height (r = 0.97) and crown diameter (r = 0.86). The 2D wavelet-derived estimates compared favorably with estimates derived using an established method that uses variable window filters (VWF) to estimate the same variables but relies on a priori knowledge of the tree height – crown diameter relationship. The 2D spatial wavelet analysis presented herein could potentially allow automated, large-scale, remote estimation of timber board feet, foliar biomass, canopy volume, and aboveground carbon, although further research testing the limitations of the method in a variety of forest types with increasing canopy closures is warranted.