Comparing remote sensing and ground-based methods of quantifying cover type and carbon storage in an urban forest
Understanding the canopy cover of an urban environment leads to better estimates of carbon storage and more informed management decisions by urban foresters. The most commonly used method for assessing urban forest cover type extent is ground surveys, which can be both timeconsuming and expensive. The analysis of aerial photos is an alternative method that is faster, cheaper, and can cover a larger number of sites, but may be less accurate. The objectives of this paper were (1) to compare three methods of cover type assessment for Los Angeles, CA: handdelineation of aerial photos in ArcMap, supervised classification of aerial photos in ERDAS Imagine, and ground-collected data using the Urban Forest Effects (UFORE) model protocol; (2) to determine how well remote sensing methods estimate carbon storage as predicted by the UFORE model; and (3) to explore the influence of tree diameter and tree density on carbon storage estimates. Four major cover types (bare ground, fine vegetation, coarse vegetation, and impervious surfaces) were determined from 348 plots (0.039 ha each) randomly stratified according to land-use. Hand-delineation was better than supervised classification at predicting ground-based measurements of cover type and UFORE model-predicted carbon storage. Most error in supervised classification resulted from shadow, which was interpreted as unknown cover type. Neither tree diameter or tree density per plot significantly affected the relationship between carbon storage and canopy cover. The efficiency of remote sensing rather than in situ data collection allows urban forest managers the ability to quickly assess a city and plan accordingly while also preserving their often-limited budget.