A new article demonstrates a novel computational efficient method to classify tree species in LiDAR point clouds.

As remote sensing transforms forest and urban tree management, automating tree species classification is now a major challenge to harness these advances for forestry and urban management. This study investigated the use of structural bark features from terrestrial laser scanner point cloud data for tree species identification. It presents a novel mathematical approach for describing bark characteristics, which have traditionally been used by experts for the visual identification of tree species. These features were used to train four machine learning algorithms (decision trees, random forests, XGBoost, and support vector machines). These methods achieved high classification accuracies between 83% (decision tree) and 96% (XGBoost) with a data set of 85 trees of four species collected near Krakow, Poland. The results suggest that bark features from point cloud data could significantly aid species identification, potentially reducing the amount of training data required by leveraging centuries of botanical knowledge. This computationally efficient approach might allow for real-time species classification.