Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1007/s10980-017-0550-7
Document Shareable Link
Title (Primary) Using airborne LiDAR to assess spatial heterogeneity in forest structure on Mount Kilimanjaro
Author Getzin, S.; Fischer, R. ORCID logo ; Knapp, N.; Huth, A.
Source Titel Landscape Ecology
Year 2017
Department OESA
Volume 32
Issue 9
Page From 1881
Page To 1894
Language englisch
Keywords Biomass; Carbon; Canopy-height model; LiDAR; Spatial heterogeneity; Tanzania
UFZ wide themes RU5;


Field inventory plots which usually have small sizes of around 0.25–1 ha can only represent a sample of the much larger surrounding forest landscape. Based on airborne laser scanning (LiDAR) it has been shown for tropical forests that the bias in the selection of small field plots may hamper the extrapolation of structural forest attributes to larger spatial scales.


We conducted a LiDAR study on tropical montane forest and evaluated the representativeness of chosen inventory plots with respect to key structural attributes.


We used six forest inventory and their surrounding landscape plots on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and analyzed the similarities for mean top-of-canopy height (TCH), aboveground biomass (AGB), gap fraction, and leaf-area index (LAI). We also analyzed the similarity in gap-size frequencies for the landscape plots.


Mean biases between inventory and landscape plots were large reaching as much as 77% for gap fraction, 22% for LAI or 15% for AGB. Despite spatial heterogeneity of the landscape, gap-size frequency distributions were remarkably similar between the landscape plots.


The study indicates that biases in field studies of forest structure may be strong. Even when mean values were similar between inventory and landscape plots, the mostly non-normally distributed probability densities of the forest variable indicated a considerable sampling error of the small field plot to approximate the forest variable in the surrounding landscape. This poses difficulties for the spatial extrapolation of forest structural attributes and for assessing biomass or carbon fluxes at larger regional scales.

Persistent UFZ Identifier
Getzin, S., Fischer, R., Knapp, N., Huth, A. (2017):
Using airborne LiDAR to assess spatial heterogeneity in forest structure on Mount Kilimanjaro
Landsc. Ecol. 32 (9), 1881 - 1894 10.1007/s10980-017-0550-7