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Rapid measurement of the three-dimensional distribution of leaf orientation and the leaf angle probability density function using terrestrial LiDAR scanning


At the plant or stand level, leaf orientation is often highly anisotropic and heterogeneous, yet most analyses neglect such complexity. In many cases, this is due to the difficulty in measuring the spatial variation of the leaf angle distribution function. There is a critical need for a technique that can rapidly measure the leaf angle distribution function at any point in space and time. A new method was developed and tested that uses terrestrial LiDAR scanning data to rapidly measure the three-dimensional distribution of leaf orientation for an arbitrary volume of leaves. The method triangulates laser-leaf intersection points recorded by the LiDAR scan, which allows for easy calculation of normal vectors. As a byproduct, the triangulation also yields continuous surfaces that reconstruct individual leaves. In order to produce a probability density function for leaf orientation from triangle normal vectors, it is critical that the proper weighting be applied to each triangle. Otherwise, results will heavily bias toward normal vectors pointed toward the the LiDAR scanner. The method was validated using artificially generated LiDAR data where the exact leaf angle distributions were known, and in the field for an isolated tree and a grapevine canopy by comparing LiDAR-generated distribution functions to manual measurements. The artificial test cases demonstrated the consistency of the method, and quantitatively showed that errors in the predicted leaf angle distribution functions decreased as scan resolution was increased or as the density of leaves was increased. The isolated tree field validation showed qualitatively similar trends between manual and LiDAR measurements of distribution functions. Manual measurements of leaf orientation in the vineyard were shown to have large errors due to high leaf curvature, which illustrated the benefits of the more detailed LiDAR measurement method.

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