Urban tree health classification across tree species by combining airborne laser scanning and imaging spectroscopy

Dengkai Chi, Jeroen Degerickx, Kang Yu, Ben Somers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Declining urban tree health can affect critical ecosystem services, such as air quality improvement, temperature moderation, carbon storage, and biodiversity conservation. The application of state-of-the-art remote sensing data to characterize tree health has been widely examined in forest ecosystems. However, such application to urban trees has not yet been fully explored-due to the presence of heterogeneous tree species and backgrounds, severely complicating the classification of tree health using remote sensing information. In this study, tree health was represented by a set of field-assessed tree health indicators (defoliation, discoloration, and a combination thereof), which were classified using airborne laser scanning (ALS) and hyperspectral imagery (HSI) with a Random Forest classifier. Different classification scenarios were established aiming at: (i) Comparing the performance of ALS data, HSI and their combination, and (ii) examining to what extent tree species mixtures affect classification accuracy. Our results show that although the predictive power of ALS and HSI indices varied between tree species and tree health indicators, overall ALS indices performed better. The combined use of both ALS and HSI indices results in the highest accuracy, with weighted kappa coefficients (Kc) ranging from 0.53 to 0.79 and overall accuracy ranging from 0.81 to 0.89. Overall, the most informative remote sensing indices indicating urban tree health are ALS indices related to point density, tree size, and shape, and HSI indices associated with chlorophyll absorption. Our results further indicate that a species-specific modelling approach is advisable (Kc points improved by 0.07 on average compared with a mixed species modelling approach). Our study constitutes a basis for future urban tree health monitoring, which will enable managers to guide early remediation management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2435
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Airborne LiDAR
  • Airborne hyperspectral data
  • Defoliation
  • Discoloration
  • Random forest
  • Street trees


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