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A practical method for creating a digital topographic surface for ecological plots using ground-based measurements

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Buettel, JC ORCID: 0000-0001-6737-7468, Ondei, S ORCID: 0000-0002-2515-3316 and Brook, BW ORCID: 0000-0002-2491-1517 2018 , 'A practical method for creating a digital topographic surface for ecological plots using ground-based measurements' , Landscape Ecology, vol. 33, no. 1 , pp. 9-18 , doi: 10.1007/s10980-017-0598-4.

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Abstract

ContextDigital elevation models (DEMs) are widely used in landscape ecology to link topographic features with biotic and abiotic factors. However, to date, high-resolution, affordable, and easy to process elevation data are not available for many regions.ObjectivesHere we propose a field-based method for efficiently and inexpensively collecting or analysing already existing slope data. We compare the field approach to two commonly used remote sensing techniques to test the similarly of the DEMs using different methods.MethodsTo provide an ecological example of the method, we selected four 1-ha forest plots and compared the DEM generated by using our field method with those derived from: (i) coarse (~ 30 m pixel) data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and (ii) high-resolution (~ 1 m) data from Light Detection and Ranging devices (LiDAR).ResultsField- and LiDAR-based DEMs showed strong concordance in two of the four sites. The sites where field-based and LiDAR DEMs substantially differed, suffered from relatively few LiDAR sampling points. Diagnostic tests suggested that the field–LiDAR discrepancy was due to dense over-storey vegetation, which reduced LiDAR’s accuracy due to a failure to penetrate the forest canopy adequately in some areas.ConclusionsOur method has the advantage of being quick and cheap to collect yet able to produce small-scale (plot-scale) DEMs of high quality. By using the R-code we have provided, ecologists will be able to use slope data (collected using any means) to generate a DEM without the need of specific skills in spatial sciences.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Buettel, JC and Ondei, S and Brook, BW
Keywords: digital elevation model, forests, remote sensing, LiDAR, DEM, topography, plots, SRTM, algorithm
Journal or Publication Title: Landscape Ecology
Publisher: Kluwer Academic Publ
ISSN: 0921-2973
DOI / ID Number: 10.1007/s10980-017-0598-4
Copyright Information:

Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

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