New LiDAR Metrics Help Identify Habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl

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The development of metrics derived from LiDAR to study forest structure has advanced wildlife-habitat modeling. 

However, further exploration of the numerous metrics available for quantifying canopy complexity could improve models of forest wildlife habitat. USGS and Oregon Department of Forestry researchers used the full set of metrics available in the LiDAR-processing software FUSION, including several structural metrics that have not previously been used in published habitat models, to identify those that best quantify structural attributes associated with nest site occupancy by the northern spotted owl. The simple metric describing maximum canopy height was the single best predictor of northern spotted owl occupancy. Also, three rarely used structural metrics included in the final model successfully described the distribution of vegetation throughout the canopy height profile. These metrics helped distinguish small patches of structurally complex suitable habitat within a matrix of structurally simple intermediate-aged forest.
 

Hagar, J.C., Yost, A., Haggerty, P.K., 2019, Incorporating novel metrics into a LiDAR-based habitat model for a canopy-dwelling species: Remote Sensing of Environment, v. 236, p. 111499, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2019.111499