Classification of single tree decay stages from combined airborne LiDAR data and CIR imagery

Tsz Chung Wong, Abubakar Sani-Mohammed, Jinhong Wang, Puzuo Wang, Wei Yao, Marco Heurich

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Understanding forest health is of great importance for the conservation of the integrity of forest ecosystems. The monitoring of forest health is, therefore, indispensable for the long-term conservation of forests and their sustainable management. In this regard, evaluating the amount and quality of dead wood is of utmost interest as they are favorable indicators of biodiversity. Apparently, remote sensing-based Machine Learning (ML) techniques have proven to be more efficient and sustainable with unprecedented accuracy in forest inventory. However, the application of these techniques is still in its infancy with respect to dead wood mapping. This study, for the first time, automatically categorizing individual coniferous trees (Norway spruce) into five decay stages (live, declining, dead, loose bark, and clean) from combined Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) point clouds and color infrared (CIR) images using three different ML methods − 3D point cloud-based deep learning (KPConv), Convolutional Neural Network (CNN), and Random Forest (RF). First, CIR colorized point clouds are created by fusing the ALS point clouds and color infrared images. Then, individual tree segmentation is conducted, after which the results are further projected onto four orthogonal planes. Finally, the classification is conducted on the two datasets (3D multispectral point clouds and 2D projected images) based on the three ML algorithms. All models achieved promising results, reaching overall accuracy (OA) of up to 88.8%, 88.4% and 85.9% for KPConv, CNN and RF, respectively. The experimental results reveal that color information, 3D coordinates, and intensity of point clouds have significant impact on the promising classification performance. The performance of our models, therefore, shows the significance of machine/deep learning for individual tree decay stages classification and landscape-wide assessment of the dead wood amount and quality by using modern airborne remote sensing techniques. The proposed method can contribute as an important and reliable tool for monitoring biodiversity in forest ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGeo-Spatial Information Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS)
  • color infrared imagery (CIR)
  • dead wood
  • Machine Learning (ML)
  • Tree decay stages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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