How do we measure a tree? In most cases, researchers use manual techniques on the ground, measuring the tree diameter at chest height. While this method is reliable, it can also be time-consuming and risks human error. Now, a team at the University of Cambridge has developed an algorithm to measure trees with our smartphones.
From an article in ZME Science by Fermin Koop.
Measuring trees is a common task for some researchers — and a very important one. It provides relevant information about the health of trees and the wider forest ecosystem, as well as how much carbon is being sequestered. When trees perform photosynthesis, they take carbon dioxide out of the air, bind it into sugar, and then release oxygen.
“When you’re trying to figure out how much carbon a forest is sequestering, these ground-based measurements are hugely valuable, but also time-consuming,” first author Amelia Holcomb from Cambridge University’s Computer Science department said in a statement. “We wanted to know whether we could automate this process.”
A different way to measure trees
Holcomb and her team developed an algorithm that gives an accurate measurement of tree diameter, using LiDAR sensors that are already incorporated into many mobile phones. This gives results that are as accurate as manual measurement techniques but much faster, the researchers said. The results are reported in a study in the Journal Remote Sensing.
Other researchers have done forest measurement studies using LiDAR sensors. However, they focused on managed forests where trees are straight, evenly spaced and undergrowth is cleared. Holcomb wanted to test whether these sensors could give accurate results for non-managed forests quickly, automatically, and in a single image.
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