The use of medium point density LIDAR data in determining the coverage of plant community types in internationally important Baltic seashore indicators

Raymond Ward, Niall Burnside, Christopher Joyce, Kalev Sepp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates the use of medium point density LiDAR (light detection and ranging) elevation data for identifying and locating plant community types in Baltic coastal wetlands. Ground-surveyed micro-topography data obtained using real-time kinematic differential GPS were used to analyse and correct the accuracy of LiDAR sourced elevation values in Matlab R2010a. Following the application of elevation corrections, 3 interpolation techniques were applied: Inverse Distance Weighting (IDW), Ordinary Kriging (OK) and the Delaunay Triangulated Irregular Network (TIN) interpolation. Analysis showed that the TIN method produced a more robust model that adequately represented the micro-topographical variation across the wetland. The TIN elevation interpolation was then used to characterise the extent and distribution of the plant communities using known elevation preferences in one coastal wetland site, Tahu. The plant community model developed from the TIN elevation interpolation was then further ground-truthed in two separate Baltic coastal wetland sites, Matsalu and Kudani, in order to test model validity. The results showed that the accuracy of the LiDAR data varied dependent upon plant community type. In 5 of the 6 studied community types, the LiDAR data gave a mean elevation difference of 0.177m (0.016SD) above the dGPS elevations. With dGPS elevation corrections, the LiDAR data produced an accurate model of the location of the different plant community types, Kappa coefficient (κ) 0.63, at the initial site, Tahu. The model was found to be very accurate in one of the subsequent ground-truthed sites,κ0.81, with a similar management history, but less accurate,κ0.53, in a wetland more exposed to wave action and with a longer history of vegetation management. The inclusion of dGPS ground survey data was shown to considerably improve the accuracy of the LiDAR elevation data to facilitate the identification of plant community types on the basis of elevation. The approach developed in this study of Baltic coastal wetlands may provide a transferable method for rapidly and accurately mapping plant communities in other open environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-104
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Indicators
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013

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© 2012 Elsevier Ltd


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