Mapping Forest Edge Using Aerial Lidar

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Meghan Graham MacLean, Babson College, Math and Science, Wellesley, MA, United States
Slightly more than 60% of Massachusetts is covered with forest and this land cover type is invaluable for the protection and maintenance of our natural resources and is a carbon sink for the state. However, Massachusetts is currently experiencing a decline in forested lands, primarily due to the expansion of human development (Thompson et al., 2011). Of particular concern is the loss of “core areas” or the areas within forests that are not influenced by other land cover types. These areas are of significant importance to native flora and fauna, since they generally are not subject to invasion by exotic species and are more resilient to the effects of climate change (Campbell et al., 2009). However, the expansion of development has reduced the amount of this core area, but the exact amount is still unknown. Current methods of estimating core area are not particularly precise, since edge, or the area of the forest that is most influenced by other land cover types, is quite variable and situation dependent. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to devise a new method for identifying areas that could qualify as “edge” within the Harvard Forest, in Petersham MA, using new remote sensing techniques. We sampled along eight transects perpendicular to the edge of an abandoned golf course within the Harvard Forest property. Vegetation inventories as well as Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) at different heights within the canopy were used to determine edge depth. These measurements were then compared with small-footprint waveform aerial LiDAR datasets and imagery to model edge depths within Harvard Forest.