Ground-based LIDAR: a novel approach to quantify fine-scale fuelbed characteristics
Ground-based LIDAR (also known as laser ranging) is a novel technique that may precisely quantify fuelbed characteristics important in determining fire behavior. We measured fuel properties within a south-eastern US longleaf pine woodland at the individual plant and fuelbed scale. Data were collected using a mobile terrestrial LIDAR unit at sub-cm scale for individual fuel types (shrubs) and heterogeneous fuelbed plots. Spatially explicit point-intercept fuel sampling also measured fuelbed heights and volume, while leaf area and biomass measurements of whole and sectioned shrubs were determined from destructive sampling. Volumes obtained by LIDAR and traditional methods showed significant discrepancies. We found that traditional means overestimated volume for shrub fuel types because of variation in leaf area distribution within shrub canopies. LIDAR volume estimates were correlated with biomass and leaf area for individual shrubs when factored by species, size, and plant section. Fuelbed heights were found to be highly variable among the fuel plots, and ground LIDAR was more sensitive to capturing the height variation than traditional point intercept sampling. Ground LIDAR is a promising technology capable of measuring complex surface fuels and fuel characteristics, such as fuel volume.