Airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology is assessed for its effectiveness as a tool for measuring terrain under forest canopy. To evaluate the capability of multiple-return discrete-pulse airborne laser ranging for detecting and resolving sub-canopy archaeological features, LiDAR data were collected from a helicopter over a forest near Gateshead in July 2009. Coal mining and timber felling have characterised Chopwell Wood, a mixed coniferous and deciduous woodland of 360 hectares, since the Industrial Revolution. The state-of-the-art Optech ALTM 3100EA LiDAR system operated at 70,000 pulses per second and raw data were acquired over the study area at a point density of over 30 points per square metre.\ud Reference terrain elevation data were acquired on-site to ‘train’ the progressive densification filtering algorithm of Axelsson (1999; 2000) to identify laser reflections from the terrain surface. A number of sites, offering a variety of tree species, variable terrain roughness & gradient and understorey vegetation cover of varying density, were identified in the wood to assess the accuracy of filtered LiDAR terrain data. Results showed that the laser scanner over-estimated the elevation of reference terrain data by 13±17 cm under deciduous canopy and 23±18 cm under coniferous canopy. Terrain point density was calculated as 4.1 and 2.4 points per square metre under deciduous and coniferous forest, respectively. Classified terrain points were modelled with the kriging interpolation technique and topographic archaeological features, such as coal tubways (transportation routes) and areas of subsidence over relic mine shafts, were identified in digital terrain models (DTMs) using advanced exaggeration and artificial illumination techniques.\ud Airborne LiDAR is capable of recording high quality terrain data even under the most dense forest canopy, but the accuracy and density of terrain data are controlled by a combination of tree species, forest management practices and understorey vegetation
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