Highlights: Following current forest inventory practises, stem volume was predicted in low-productive drained peatlands (LPDPs) with a root mean square error (RMSE) of 13.7 m3 ha–1; When 30 reference plots measured from LPDPs were added to the prediction, RMSE was decreased to 10.0 m3 ha–1; Additional reference plots from LPDPs did not affect the forest inventory attribute predictions in productive forests.
Nearly 30% of Finland’s land area is covered by peatlands. In Northern parts of the country there is a significant amount of low-productive drained peatlands (LPDPs) where the average annual stem volume growth is less than 1 m3 ha–1. The re-use of LPDPs has been considered thoroughly since Finnish forest legislation was updated and the forest regeneration prerequisite was removed from LPDPs in January 2014. Currently, forestry is one of the re-use alternatives, thus detailed forest resource information is required for allocating activities. However, current forest inventory practices have not been evaluated for sparse growing stocks (e.g., LPDPs). The purpose of our study was to evaluate the suitability of airborne laser scanning (ALS) for mapping forest inventory attributes in LPDPs. We used ALS data with a density of 0.8 pulses per m2, 558 field-measured reference plots (500 from productive forests and 58 from LPDPs) and k nearest neighbour (k-NN) estimation. Our main aim was to study the sensitivity of predictions to the number of LPDP reference plots used in the k-NN estimation. When the reference data consisted of 500 plots from productive forest stands, the root mean square errors (RMSEs) for the prediction accuracy of Lorey’s height, basal area and stem volume were 1.4 m, 2.7 m2 ha–1 and 13.7 m3 ha–1 in LPDPs, respectively. When 30 additional reference plots were allocated to LPDPs, the respective RMSEs were 1.1 m, 1.7 m2 ha–1 and 10.0 m3 ha–1. Additional reference plot allocation did not affect the predictions in productive forest stands.