Current issue: 56(3)
Norway’s most common tree species, Picea abies (L.) Karst. (Norway spruce), is often infected with Heterobasidion parviporum Niemelä & Korhonen and Heterobasidion annosum (Fr.) Bref.. Because Pinus sylvestris L. (Scots pine) is less susceptible to rot, it is worth considering if converting rot-infested spruce stands to pine improves economic performance. We examined the economically optimal choice between planting Norway spruce and Scots pine for previously spruce-dominated clear-cut sites of different site indexes with initial rot levels varying from 0% to 100% of stumps on the site. While it is optimal to continue to plant Norway spruce in regions with low rot levels, shifting to Scots pine pays off when rot levels get higher. The threshold rot level for changing from Norway spruce to Scots pine increases with the site index. We present a case study demonstrating a practical method (“Precision forestry”) for determining the tree species in a stand at the pixel level when the stand is heterogeneous both in site indexes and rot levels. This method is consistent with the concept of Precision forestry, which aims to plan and execute site-specific forest management activities to improve the quality of wood products while minimising waste, increasing profits, and maintaining environmental quality. The material for the study includes data on rot levels and site indexes in 71 clear-cut stands. Compared to planting the entire stand with a single species, pixel-level optimised species selection increases the net present value in almost every stand, with average increase of approximately 6%.
Forest management inventories assisted by airborne laser scanner data rely on predictive models traditionally constructed and applied based on data from the same area of interest. However, forest attributes can also be predicted using models constructed with data external to where the model is applied, both temporal and geographically. When external models are used, many factors influence the predictions’ accuracy and may cause systematic errors. In this study, volume, stem number, and dominant height were estimated using external model predictions calibrated using a reduced number of up-to-date local field plots or using predictions from reparametrized models. We assessed and compared the performance of three different calibration approaches for both temporally and spatially external models. Each of the three approaches was applied with different numbers of calibration plots in a simulation, and the accuracy was assessed using independent validation data. The primary findings were that local calibration reduced the relative mean difference in 89% of the cases, and the relative root mean squared error in 56% of the cases. Differences between application of temporally or spatially external models were minor, and when the number of local plots was small, calibration approaches based on the observed prediction errors on the up-to-date local field plots were better than using the reparametrized models. The results showed that the estimates resulting from calibrating external models with 20 plots were at the same level of accuracy as those resulting from a new inventory.
Pathogenic wood decay fungi such as species of Heterobasidion are some of the most serious forest pathogens in Europe, causing rot of tree boles and loss of growth, with estimated economic losses of eight hundred million euros per year. In conifers with low resinous heartwood such as species of Picea and Abies, these fungi are commonly confined to heartwood and thus external infection signs on the bark or foliage of trees are normally absent. Consequently, determining the extent of disease presence in a forest stand with field surveys is not practical for guiding forest management decisions such as optimal rotation time. Remote sensing technologies such as airborne laser scanning and aerial imagery are already used to reduce the reliance on fieldwork in forest inventories. This study aimed to use remote sensing to detect rot in spruce (Picea abies L. Karst.) forests in Norway. An airborne hyperspectral imager provided information for classifying the presence or absence of rot in a single-tree-based framework. Ground reference data showing the presence of rot were collected by harvest machine operators during the harvest of forest stands. Random forest and support vector machine algorithms were used to classify the presence and absence of rot. Results indicate a 64% overall classification accuracy for presence-absence classification of rot, although additional work remains to make the classifications usable for practical forest management.
Newly developed positioning systems in cut-to-length harvesters enable georeferencing of individual trees with submeter accuracy. Together with detailed tree measurements recorded during processing of the tree, georeferenced harvester data are emerging as a valuable tool for forest inventory. Previous studies have shown that harvester data can be linked to airborne laser scanner (ALS) data to estimate a range of forest attributes. However, there is little empirical evidence of the benefits of improved positioning accuracy of harvester data. The two objectives of this study were to (1) assess the accuracy of timber volume estimation using harvester data and ALS data acquired with different scanners over multiple years and (2) assess how harvester positioning errors affect merchantable timber volume predicted and estimated from ALS data. We used harvester data from 33 commercial logging operations, comprising 93 731 harvested stems georeferenced with sub-meter accuracy, as plot-level training data in an enhanced area-based inventory approach. By randomly altering the tree positions in Monte Carlo simulations, we assessed how prediction and estimation errors were influenced by different combinations of simulated positioning errors and grid cell sizes. We simulated positioning errors of 1, 2, …, 15 m and used grid cells of 100, 200, 300 and 400 m2. Values of root mean square errors obtained for cell-level predictions of timber volume differed significantly for the different grid cell sizes. The use of larger grid cells resulted in a greater accuracy of timber volume predictions, which were also less affected by positioning errors. Accuracies of timber volume estimates at logging operation level decreased significantly with increasing levels of positioning error. The results highlight the benefit of accurate positioning of harvester data in forest inventory applications. Further, the results indicate that when estimating timber volume from ALS data and inaccurately positioned harvester data, larger grid cells are beneficial.
Tree species composition is an essential attribute in stand-level forest management inventories and remotely sensed data might be useful for its estimation. Previous studies on this topic have had several operational drawbacks, e.g., performance studied at a small scale and at a single tree-level with large fieldwork costs. The current study presents the results from a large-area inventory providing species composition following an operational area-based approach. The study utilizes a combination of airborne laser scanning and hyperspectral data and 97 field sample plots of 250 m2 collected over 350 km2 of productive forest in Norway. The results show that, with the availability of hyperspectral data, species-specific volume proportions can be provided in operational forest management inventories with acceptable results in 90% of the cases at the plot level. Dominant species were classified with an overall accuracy of 91% and a kappa-value of 0.73. Species-specific volumes were estimated with relative root mean square differences of 34%, 87%, and 102% for Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.), and deciduous species, respectively. A novel tree-based approach for selecting pixels improved the results compared to a traditional approach based on the normalized difference vegetation index.
Forest inventories assisted by wall-to-wall airborne laser scanning (ALS), have become common practice in many countries. One major cost component in these inventories is the measurement of field sample plots used for constructing models relating biophysical forest attributes to metrics derived from ALS data. In areas where ALS-assisted forest inventories are planned, and in which the previous inventories were performed with the same method, reusing previously acquired field data can potentially reduce costs, either by (1) temporally transferring previously constructed models or (2) projecting field reference data using growth models that can serve as field reference data for model construction with up-to-date ALS data. In this study, we analyzed these two approaches of reusing field data acquired 15 years prior to the current ALS acquisition to estimate six up-to-date forest attributes (dominant tree height, mean tree height, stem number, stand basal area, volume, and aboveground biomass). Both approaches were evaluated within small stands with sizes of approximately 0.37 ha, assessing differences between estimates and ground reference values. The estimates were also compared to results from an up-to-date forest inventory relying on concurrent field- and ALS data. The results showed that even though the reuse of historical information has some potential and could be beneficial for forest inventories, systematic errors may appear prominent and need to be overcome to use it operationally. Our study showed systematic trends towards the overestimation of lower-range ground references and underestimation of the upper-range ground references.
Accurately positioned single-tree data obtained from a cut-to-length harvester were used as training harvester plot data for k-nearest neighbor (k-nn) stem diameter distribution modelling applying airborne laser scanning (ALS) information as predictor variables. Part of the same harvester data were also used for stand-level validation where the validation units were stands including all the harvester plots on a systematic grid located within each individual stand. In the validation all harvester plots within a stand and also the neighboring stands located closer than 200 m were excluded from the training data when predicting for plots of a particular stand. We further compared different training harvester plot sizes, namely 200 m2, 400 m2, 900 m2 and 1600 m2. Due to this setup the number of considered stands and the areas within the stands varied between the different harvester plot sizes. Our data were from final fellings in Akershus County in Norway and consisted of altogether 47 stands dominated by Norway spruce. We also had ALS data from the area. We concentrated on estimating characteristics of Norway spruce but due to the k-nn approach, species-wise estimates and stand totals as a sum over species were considered as well. The results showed that in the most accurate cases stand-level merchantable total volume could be estimated with RMSE values smaller than 9% of the mean. This value can be considered as highly accurate. Also the fit of the stem diameter distribution assessed by a variant of Reynold’s error index showed values smaller than 0.2 which are superior to those found in the previous studies. The differences between harvester plot sizes were generally small, showing most accurate results for the training harvester plot sizes 200 m2 and 400 m2.
Airborne laser scanning (ALS) has been the main method for acquiring data for forest management planning in Finland and Norway in the last decade. Recently, digital aerial photogrammetry (DAP) has provided an interesting alternative, as the accuracy of stand-based estimates has been quite close to that of ALS while the costs are markedly smaller. Thus, it is important to know if the better accuracy of ALS is worth the higher costs for forest owners. In many recent studies, the value of forest inventory information in the harvest scheduling has been examined, for instance through cost-plus-loss analysis. Cost-plus-loss means that the quality of the data is accounted for in monetary terms through calculating the losses due to errors in the data in the forest management planning context. These costs are added to the inventory costs. In the current study, we compared the losses of ALS and DAP at plot level. According to the results, the data produced using DAP are as good as data produced using ALS from a decision making point of view, even though ALS is slightly more accurate. ALS is better than DAP only if the data will be used for more than 15 years before acquiring new data, and even then the difference is quite small. Thus, the increased errors in DAP do not significantly affect the results from a decision making point of view, and ALS and DAP data can be equally well recommended to the forest owners for management planning. The decision of which data to acquire, can thus be made based on the availability of the data on first hand and the costs of acquiring it on the second hand.
The nature areas surrounding the capital of Norway (Oslomarka), comprising 1 700 km2 of forest land, are the recreational home turf for a population of 1.2 mill. people. These areas are highly valuable, not only for recreational purposes and biodiversity, but also for commercial activities. To assess the impacts of the challenges that Oslo municipality forest face in their management, we developed four optimization problems with different levels of management constraints. The constraints consider control of harvest level, guarantee of minimum old-growth forest area and maximum open area after final harvest. For the latter, to date, no appropriate analyses quantifying the impact of such a constraint on economy and biomass production have been carried out in Norway. The problem solved is large due to both the number of stands and number of treatment schedules. However, the model applied demonstrated its relevance for solving large problems involving maximum opening areas. The inclusion of maximum open area constraints caused 7.0% loss in NPV compared to the business as usual case with controlled harvest volume and minimum old-growth area. The estimated supply of 20-30 GWh annual energy from harvest residues could provide a small, but stable supply of energy to the municipality.