CSX Carbon is utilizing a RIEGL VZ-400i Terrestrial Laser Scanner from RIEGL UK in a follow up research program targeted at the quantification of forest AGB (above ground biomass) carbon in the UK and Europe. This comes in response to a previously established study documenting the quantification of carbon in temperate forestry AGB undergone by BEAMS (Biocarbon Europe: Advancing Measurement Standard) in partnership with the University of Ghent and the University of Oxford.
The RIEGL VZ-400i is being used to collect highly detailed and precise point clouds to derive tree volumes and dominant tree species over a range of diameter and age classes within specific growing environments across forests in the UK and Europe. The data captured from the RIEGL VZ-400i will be combined with drone LiDAR and photogrammetry data for an added layer of understanding and realistic estimation of the forest AGB at local woodland area levels.
Ultimately, this research will set the standard for new measurement and monitoring principles that utilize the latest innovative technology, such as the RIEGL VZ-400i, and will allow for more robust measurement of AGB carbon for trading within both the compliance and voluntary carbon markets, with the potential to expedite a transition to global NetZero.
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Article by Dr Joanne Nightingale (CSX Carbon) and Tom Verhelst (Ghent University)
CSX Carbon, a North Yorkshire (UK) based environmental data and analytics business, is building the infrastructure to create transformative, trusted Carbon, Natural Capital and Biodiversity markets. By employing innovative methods and cutting-edge earth observation technologies to measure, monitor and verify nature-based solutions, coupled with our relationships with land holders, we can source home grown, auditable and traceable carbon offsets. The CSX infrastructure offers land managers a fair return for environmental management whilst connecting them with businesses who will, in return receive a carbon offset with an audit trail that is transparent and verifiable. During our initial research, earlier experience with RIEGL sensors coupled with previous academic and white papers citing data captured with RIEGL sensors (both terrestrial and airborne LiDAR), informed our equipment technology selection. Consequently, CSX Carbon acquired and are now using the RIEGL VZ-400i terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) from RIEGL UK for accurate documentation, which will be undertaken on a larger more productive scale than previously.
The voluntary carbon market has the potential to expedite a transition to global NetZero by mobilizing private sector funding of nature-based solutions (NBS), such as environmentally sustainable land use change and management (i.e. afforestation, reforestation). However, reliable quantification of the climate mitigation benefits of land sector protection or restoration requires accurate measurement, monitoring and verification of vegetation above ground biomass (AGB) that has not been undertaken operationally on a large scale to date. Estimating forest aboveground carbon stocks has traditionally required measurement of standard tree mensuration parameters, such as diameter at breast height (DBH, measured at 1.3m), tree height and number of trees per area, using manual sampling protocols, a tape measure and clinometer. These data are then used to estimate stem volume using mensuration tables or sample harvest data and then appropriate empirical relationships (allometric equations) are used to estimate whole-tree biomass, and therefore C stocks. Development of allometric models in these calibration datasets is often biased towards smaller trees, which are easier to harvest, cut and weigh, and extrapolation through regression is employed for bigger trees. To calculate carbon within broadleaf woodlands, the current standards (i.e. the UK Woodland Carbon Code) uses allometric models derived from a single calibration dataset generated in the 1960s, containing just over 200 destructively sampled trees across five different species felled at four localities in the English Lake District. Even though sampling was done across the full tree size range at those localities at the time, it does not cover anywhere near the size range in other locations, nor allow for changes in tree form over the last half century as a result of improved seed stocks and changing climate. More troubling, these models using regionally specific (and size-limited) calibration data, have been widely-used across Great Britain and beyond.
BEAMS: Biocarbon Europe: Advancing Measurement Standard, is a key scientific research programme that underpins the credibility and robustness of the CSX Carbon infrastructure. In partnership with the University of Ghent and University of Oxford, the aim is to improve the quantification of carbon in temperate forestry above ground biomass (AGB). The precursor study to this project presented the first full 3D analysis of AGB and carbon stocks in a well-understood temperate deciduous UK forest (Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire) derived using non-destructive terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) technology.
CSX Carbon are now undertaking a privately funded follow-on research program to better inform the quantification of forest AGB carbon, initially in UK and European forests. The RIEGL VZ-400i is being used to collect highly detailed and accurate point clouds from which tree volumes can be derived for dominant tree species over a range of diameter and age classes and environmental growing conditions across CSX Carbon Observatories within the UK and Europe
Additionally, the VZ-400i offers ease of operation and fast automatic on-board registration whilst in the field. When capturing larger woodland areas, compared to single tree analyses, this is useful to ensure the data-set captured is robust. The ability to record multi-target responses enables penetration of branch and leaf obstructions to observe the upper areas of the tree canopy, resulting in an increasingly reliable AGB assessment and thus carbon stock.
These data will be combined with drone LiDAR and photogrammetry data to advance scientific understanding and provide a much more realistic estimate of the forest AGB at local woodland compartment scales. Ultimately, a new set of measurement and monitoring standards that utilize the latest innovative technology, such as the RIEGL VZ-400i, will be developed for more robust measurement of AGB carbon for trading within both the compliance and voluntary carbon mechanisms.
RIEGL VZ-400i scanning oak woodland in Barningham, North Yorkshire, UK. Using a RIEGL tilt-mount, the scanner can be easily rotated over a 90° angle. This way, the scanner can be tilted in a horizontal position to sample the canopy structure at each scan location in the forest.
Visualization of the Oak Woodland in Barningham from the RIEGL VZ-400i point cloud data (Data collection and processing: Tom Verhelst).
The segmented point clouds of three different oaks in woodland across Barningham at different life stages from young to mature. This demonstrates how tree structure can change tremendously as tree mature, highlighting the danger of using size-to-AGB models on trees outside of the intended size range. Within the BEAMS project, the goal is to collect a database of point clouds across the entire size range for some of the most prominent temperate tree species across the UK and Europe including Oak, Beech, Sycamore, Birch, Pine and Spruce. (Data collection and processing: Tom Verhelst)
Dr Joanne Nightingale
Chief Scientific Officer
Barningham Coach House, Barningham
Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL11 7DW
PhD Student – Ghent University
CAVElab Computational & Applied Vegetation Ecology
Department of Environment
Campus Coupure, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium