Terrestrial laser scanning: estimation of Scots pine timber quality

Preharvest information on the quality of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) timber is required by the forest industry in Nordic countries, due to the strong association between the technical quality and product recovery of this species in particular. The objective of this study was to assess the accuracy of estimating external quality attributes and classifying the quality of mature Scots pine trees by terrestrial laser scanning (TLS). 

The tree quality was estimated using a random forest approach, based on both field and TLS measurements of stem diameters, tree height and branch heights. The highest errors of the branch heights were caused by the shadowing effect in the point cloud data. The quality classes were estimated accurately, based on both (field and TLS measured) tree attributes. Trees were classified with 95.0% and 83.6% accuracy into three operationally-important quality classes and with 87.1% and 76.4% accuracy into five classes using, field or TLS measurements, respectively. 

The obtained quality classification results were promising. The enhanced tree quality information could have a significant effect on planning forest management procedures, wood supply chains and optimising the flow of raw materials. To fully integrate tree quality measurements in operational forestry, the methods used should be fully automated.

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