ARBOR:A New Framework for Assessing the Accuracy of Individual Tree Crown Delineation from Remotely-sensed Data

Murray, Jonathan and Gullick, David and Blackburn, Alan and Whyatt, Duncan and Edwards, Christopher (2019) ARBOR:A New Framework for Assessing the Accuracy of Individual Tree Crown Delineation from Remotely-sensed Data. Remote Sensing of Environment, 231. ISSN 0034-4257

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To assess the accuracy of individual tree crown (ITC) delineation techniques the same tree needs to be identified in two different datasets, for example, ground reference (GR) data and crowns delineated from LiDAR. Many studies use arbitrary metrics or simple linear-distance thresholds to match trees in different datasets without quantifying the level of agreement. For example, successful match-pairing is often claimed where two data points, representing the same tree in different datasets, are located within 5m of one another. Such simple measures are inadequate for representing the multi-variate nature of ITC delineations and generate misleading measures of delineation accuracy. In this study, we develop a new framework for objectively quantifying the agreement between GR and remotely-sensed tree datasets: the Accuracy of Remotely-sensed Biophysical Observation and Retrieval (ARBOR) framework. Using common biophysical properties of ITC delineated trees (location, height and crown area), trees represented in different data sets were modelled as overlapping Gaussian curves to facilitate a more comprehensive assessment of the level of agreement. Extensive testing quantified the limitations of some frequently used match-pairing methods, in particular, the Hausdorff distance algorithm. We demonstrate that within the ARBOR framework, the Hungarian combinatorial optimisation algorithm improves the match between datasets, while the Jaccard similarity coefficient is effective for measuring the correspondence between the matched data populations. The ARBOR framework was applied to GR and remotely-sensed tree data from a woodland study site to demonstrate how ARBOR can identify the optimum ITC delineation technique, out of four different methods tested, based on two measures of statistical accuracy. Using ARBOR will limit further reliance on arbitrary thresholds as it provides an objective approach for quantifying accuracy in the development and application of ITC delineation algorithms.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Remote Sensing of Environment
Additional Information:
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Remote Sensing of Environment. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Remote Sensing of Environment, 231, 2019 DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2019.111256
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22 Jun 2019 08:59
Last Modified:
26 Sep 2020 05:50