Terrestrial laser scanning: an operational tool for fuel hazard mapping?
Wallace, L and Hillman, S and Hally, B and Taneja, R and White, A and McGlade, J, Terrestrial laser scanning: an operational tool for fuel hazard mapping?, Fire, 5, (4) Article 85. ISSN 2571-6255 (2022) [Refereed Article]
Fuel hazard estimates are vital for the prediction of fire behaviour and planning fuel treatment activities. Previous literature has highlighted the potential of Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) to be used to assess fuel properties. However, operational uptake of these systems has been limited due to a lack of a sampling approach that balances efficiency and data efficacy. This study aims to assess whether an operational approach utilising Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) to capture fuel information over an area commensurate with current fuel hazard assessment protocols implemented in South-Eastern Australia is feasible. TLS data were captured over various plots in South-Eastern Australia, utilising both low- and high-cost TLS sensors. Results indicate that both scanners provided similar overall representation of the ground, vertical distribution of vegetation and fuel hazard estimates. The analysis of fuel information contained within individual scans clipped to 4 m showed similar results to that of the fully co-registered plot (cover estimates of near-surface vegetation were within 10%, elevated vegetation within 15%, and height estimates of near-surface and elevated strata within 0.05 cm). This study recommends that, to capture a plot in an operational environment (balancing efficiency and data completeness), a sufficient number of non-overlapping individual scans can provide reliable estimates of fuel information at the near-surface and elevated strata, without the need for co-registration in the case study environments. The use of TLS within the rigid structure provided by current fuel observation protocols provides incremental benefit to the measurement of fuel hazard. Future research should leverage the full capability of TLS data and combine it with moisture estimates to gain a full realisation of the fuel hazard.