Since fallen trees are a key factor in biodiversity and biogeochemical cycling, information about their spatial distribution is of use in determining species distribution and nutrient and carbon cycling in forest ecosystems. Ground-based surveys are both time consuming and labour intensive. Remote-sensing technology can reduce these costs. Here, we used high-spatial-resolution aerial photographs (0.5-1.0 cm per pixel) taken from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to survey fallen trees in a deciduous broadleaved forest in eastern Japan. In nine sub-plots we found a total of 44 fallen trees by ground survey. From the aerial photographs, we identified 80% to 90% of fallen trees that were >30 cm in diameter or >10 m in length, but missed many that were narrower or shorter. This failure may be due to the similarity of fallen trees to trunks and branches of standing trees or masking by standing trees. Views of the same point from different angles may improve the detection rate because they would provide more opportunity to detect fallen trees hidden by standing trees. Our results suggest that UAV surveys will make it possible to monitor the spatial and temporal variations in forest structure and function at lower cost.
Inoue, T., Nagai, S., Yamashita, S., Fadaei, H., Ishii, R., Okabe, K., … Suzuki, R. (2014). Unmanned aerial survey of fallen trees in a deciduous broadleaved forest in eastern Japan. PLoS ONE, 9(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0109881