Research Note

A novel method for estimating tree dimensions and calculating canopy volume using digital photography

Published in: African Journal of Range & Forage Science
Volume 29, issue 3, 2012 , pages: 153–156
DOI: 10.2989/10220119.2012.727471
Author(s): AS BarrettApplied Behavioural Ecology and Ecosystems Research Unit, South Africa, LR BrownApplied Behavioural Ecology and Ecosystems Research Unit, South Africa

Abstract

Studies on plant phenology and browse capacity require effective methods to rapidly quantify plant dimensions such as tree height, height of maximum canopy diameter, height of first leaves, maximum canopy diameter, and diameter of trunk(s) at height of first leaves. Here we describe a method for estimating tree dimensions and calculating canopy volume using a measuring staff (for calibration), a digital camera and our VolCalc software. The method requires a photograph be taken of the measuring staff placed next to an object whose measurements are to be determined. The two objects must be adjacent to one another in the photograph. For rapid analysis, multiple photographs of different objects can be taken over a short period of time using the measuring staff. The method is not limited to plants and can be used to determine, for example, browser height, height at which browsers feed, and primate resource abundance. The method has been tested in the field and provides a fast and precise tree dimension parameter estimation option, where sampling time is of the essence. Test results compare well to alternative methods currently utilised, showing improved precision and faster field data collection times, which are important to researchers and ecologists.

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