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Estimating the heights and diameters at breast height of trees in an urban park and along a street using mobile LiDAR

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Because trees can positively influence local environments in urban ecosystems, it is important to measure their morphological characteristics, such as height and diameter at breast height (DBH). However, measuring these data for each individual tree is a time-consuming process that requires a great deal of manpower. In this study, we investigated the feasibility of using mobile LiDAR to estimate tree height and DBH along urban streets and in urban parks. We compared measurements from a mobile LiDAR unit with field measurements of tree height and DBH in urban parks and streets. The height-above-ground and Pratt circle fit methods were applied to calculate tree height and DBH, respectively. The LiDAR-estimated tree heights were highly accurate albeit slightly underestimated, with a root mean square error of 0.359 m for the street trees and 0.462 m for the park trees. On the other hand, the estimated DBHs were moderately accurate and overestimated, with a root mean square error of 3.77 cm for the street trees and 8.95 cm for the park trees. Densely planted trees in the park and obstacles in urban areas result in “shadows” (areas with no data), reducing accuracy. Irregular trunk shapes and scanned data that did not include full data point coverage of every trunk were the reasons for the errors. Despite these errors, this study highlights the potential of tree measurements obtained with mobile terrestrial LiDAR platforms to be scaled up from point-based locations to neighborhood-scale and city-scale inventories.

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