Local topographic controls on UAV-derived tree structure change in a forested wetland

Authors: Colton Miller*, College of the Environment, University of Washington, Meghan Halabisky, College of the Environment, University of Washington, Monika Moskal, College of the Environment, University of Washington
Topics: Remote Sensing
Keywords: UAV, wetlands, forest structure, topography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Harding, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Forested wetlands are widely recognized as providing important ecosystem services for both natural communities (e.g. wildlife habitat) and human society (e.g. carbon sequestration). However, the status and trends of forested wetlands are not well understood. Currently, wetlands on forestlands are not regulated and it is not yet known how logging practices impact their overall structure and function. Topography of forested wetlands can vary at micro scales due to hydrological flow and may be important in driving tree structure change in these systems. The goal of this study was to assess the influence of local topographic variables on forest dynamics using high resolution UAV digital aerial imagery and LiDAR. We created structure from motion point clouds using overlapping imagery and paired these data with airborne lidar point clouds in order to estimate changes in forest structure across the study site. We estimated change in forest height, cover, and canopy roughness. We used a digital terrain model of the area to quantify topographic variation using elevation, slope, aspect, curvature, and topographic wetness index. We analyzed correlations between topographic predictor variables and forest structure change response metrics and used ordinary least squares regression model the response in forest structure. The results of this study provide a method for mapping forest structure and assessing habitat change in forested wetlands.

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