Current issue: 56(2)
Under compilation: 56(3)
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.