Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > Ground based LiDAR demonstrates the legacy of m...
View graph of relations

Ground based LiDAR demonstrates the legacy of management history to canopy structure and composition across a fragmented temperate woodland

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

  • Sean McMahon
  • Daniel Bebber
  • Nathalie Butt
  • Martha Crockatt
  • Keith Kirby
  • Geoffrey Parker
  • Terhi Riutta
  • Eleanor M. Slade
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/01/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Forest Ecology and Management
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)255-260
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date27/10/14
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The structure of forest canopies correlates with stand maturity and biomass, and develops consistently over time. Remote-sensing technologies such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) have become prominent tools for measuring structural characteristics of forests.

We walked a portable canopy LiDAR (PCL), an up-facing rangefinder that detects vegetation through the canopy at two kilohertz, along multiple transects at ten different forest stands in the area of Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire, UK. The stands had different species composition, were situated at forest edges and in forest core, were in fragments of different sizes and had different land-use histories. With these data we tested structural differences in vegetation across these stand types.

Although none of the stands have been managed in the last 70 years, they have not converged structurally. Vertical canopy structure differed between stands that regrew naturally from open field and those with a history of coppice management. Forest stands that have developed following major fellings or through spread on to former grazing land showed some structural similarities to classic natural succession from large disturbances. Stands that were actively managed as coppice over preceding centuries, showed a similar structural pattern to mature forest, but without the tall overstorey that can develop into old growth communities.

This structural divergence indicates two distinct pathways for secondary forests: with implications for the future biomass, stand structure, and species composition. The legacy of management practices can determine canopy structure decades after the forest is removed from active management, but can also be difficult to discern with remote sensing data. We recommend that “ground-truthing” remote sensing data go beyond traditional checks of height and topography, as the history and composition of secondary forests can have an important influence on the pace and compositional structure of recovery from management.