Estimating fine-scale visibility in a temperate forest landscape using airborne laser scanning
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Visibility is a key factor influencing animal behavior in forest ecosystems. Fine-scale visibility in forested areas has been measured by ground-based approaches at the plot level, using site-specific methods that have limited spatial coverage. Here we examine airborne laser scanning (ALS) as a novel tool to quantify fine-scale visibility in the temperate forests of Germany at a landscape scale. We validate the (vertically derived) ALS-derived visibility measures using proven (horizontally derived) terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) estimates of true visibility. Our results indicate that there is a good agreement between the visibility resulting from ALS and TLS with an R2 ranging from 0.53 to 0.84 and a normalized RMSE varying from 15.92% to 11.81% at various plot sizes, with the highest accuracy achieved using a plot size of 35 × 35 m. Our study demonstrates for the first time that ALS can be successfully applied to quantify fine-scale visibility in temperate forests at a landscape level. This approach holds potential for studying the spatial behavior of animals (e.g., habitat selection and predator–prey relationships) in forest ecosystems.