Forest structural parameters such as quadratic mean diameter, basal area, and number of trees per unit area are important for the assessment of wood volume and biomass and represent key forest inventory attributes. Forest inventory information is required to support sustainable management,
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Forest structural parameters such as quadratic mean diameter, basal area, and number of trees per unit area are important for the assessment of wood volume and biomass and represent key forest inventory attributes. Forest inventory information is required to support sustainable management, carbon accounting, and policy development activities. Digital image processing of remotely sensed imagery is increasingly utilized to assist traditional, more manual, methods in the estimation of forest structural attributes over extensive areas, also enabling evaluation of change over time. Empirical attribute estimation with remotely sensed data is frequently employed, yet with known limitations, especially over complex environments such as Mediterranean forests. In this study, the capacity of high spatial resolution (HSR) imagery and related techniques to model structural parameters at the stand level (n = 490) in Mediterranean pines in Central Spain is tested using data from the commercial satellite QuickBird-2. Spectral and spatial information derived from multispectral and panchromatic imagery (2.4 m and 0.68 m sided pixels, respectively) served to model structural parameters. Classification and Regression Tree Analysis
(CART) was selected for the modeling of attributes. Accurate models were produced of quadratic mean diameter (QMD) (R2
= 0.8; RMSE = 0.13 m) with an average error of 17% while basal area (BA) models produced an average error of 22% (RMSE = 5.79 m2
/ha). When the measured number of trees per unit area (N) was categorized, as per frequent forest management practices, CART models correctly classified 70% of the stands, with all other stands classified in an adjacent class. The accuracy of the attributes estimated here is expected to be better when canopy cover is more open and attribute values are at the lower end of the range present, as related in the pattern of the residuals found in this study. Our findings indicate that attributes derived from HSR imagery captured from space-borne platforms have capacity to inform on local structural parameters of Mediterranean pines. The nascent program for annual national coverages of HSR imagery over Spain offers unique opportunities for forest structural attribute estimation; whereby, depletions can be readily captured and successive annual collections of data can support or enable refinement of attributes. Further, HSR imagery and associated attribute estimation techniques can be used in conjunction, not necessarily in competition to, more traditional forest inventory with synergies available through provision of data within an inventory cycle and the capture of forest disturbance or depletions.