Estimation of Forest Interior Condition in Southern Appalachian Mountains Using Airborne Lidar Data

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Shao, Gang; Fei, Songlin; Madurapperuma, Buddhika D.; Shao, Guofan
Geographic Information Sciences
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Sustainability of forest ecosystem requires maintenance of forest cover and forest interior conditions. Sustaining forest cover supplies ecosystem goods and services and maintains biomass and carbon and nitrogen storage. Forest interior supports ecosystem functioning and provides particular physical and biological environments for plant and animal species that depend on a type of habitat isolated from non-forest land cover areas and prohibit the infestation of invasive species. Land cover maps derived from satellite imagery were broadly applied to assess spatial patterns of forest ecosystem and its dynamic. However, existing land cover maps at landscape scale are insufficient to provide information of canopy gaps within forest areas. They are also not able to distinguish original forest with forest sapling areas, which do not match physical and biological functions as original forest. We applied airborne Lidar data to identify the forest area without canopy gaps and young saplings in southern Appalachian Mountains. Then the forest fragmentation and forest interior condition were analyzed at three spatial scales from 2.25 ha to 56.25 ha. The results showed 5.5% reducing of forest interior and 42.5% increasing of fragmentation areas than the estimations derived by National Land Cover Data.