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Individual Highlight

Mapping Hardwood and Softwood Vegetation Types with LiDAR

Photo of Snapshot : Study informs forest management activities and assesses woodpecker habitat

Principal Investigators(s) :
McGaughey, Robert 
Research Location : U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site, South Carolina
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 73


Managers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site in South Carolina are using the summarized geographic information system (GIS) data layers that were produced during this research to assess the availability of small-diameter hardwood material for bioenergy production and the suitability of the habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

In this study, Forest Service scientists developed an innovative technique for characterizing species class by using a combination of Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, technology and forest structure information. This approach was used to identify hardwood and softwood vegetation in a 19,800-acre study site.

The presence or absence of hardwood species and their position in the forest canopy often dictate the application of management activities such as thinning or prescribed burning in southeastern forests. The characteristics of the understory and midstory layers are also key factors when assessing habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker.