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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Employing advanced airborne remotely sensed data to improve terrestrial ecosystem mapping Jones, Trevor Gareth


Information representing the species composition and structural configuration of forested ecosystems is critical for effective, sustainable management. In Canada, the methods employed to map forest species and structure vary, however, they conventionally include photogrammetric techniques. Despite common use, aerial photograph delineation and interpretation is time consuming and laborious, often yielding subjective results which cannot be easily updated, and is thus not well suited for quantitative mapping over extensive areas. In contrast, advanced methods for remotely quantifying forest characteristics show promise for improving conventional approaches. Two data sources of particular interest are hyperspectral and light detection and ranging (LiDAR). Hyperspectral sensors acquire data simultaneously in upwards of hundreds of narrow spectral channels, providing an unprecedented tool for differentiating between vegetation species. LiDAR systems directly measure the vertical distribution of foliage, providing detailed information on height, cover, and structure. This thesis integrated new generation remote sensing technologies with field data to improve forest species and structural information in the British Columbian southern Gulf Islands (SGI). Results indicate the objective was met, providing a state-of-the-art, step-by-step protocol for forest managers and ecologists to undertake detailed and accurate species and structural mapping of protected areas, while decreasing associated labor, time and subjectivity, and increasing repeatability, at a cost comparable, if not less, than conventional aerial photography. The unique outcomes of this thesis include the first spectral library of dominant tree species in Canada’s coastal Pacific Northwest, the first SGI inventory of LiDAR-metrics able to characterize and differentiate forest structure, significantly improved data for rare Garry oak habitat, markedly more detailed and accurate distribution information for 11 dominant tree species derived using an innovative classification approach and newly developed LiDAR metrics, and the first assessment in any environ of hyperspectral metrics for describing and differentiating avifaunal guilds based on diversity. In addition, results provide the first tree species heterogeneity predictions for the SGI, yielded through an object-based classification incorporating airborne hyperspectral data and space-borne multispectral data. The innovative methods described are not limited to the SGI, and can be replicated where targeted species/structural characteristics can be defined and differentiated based on hyperspectral-derived and/or LiDAR-derived metrics.

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