The horizontal and vertical distributions of light transmittance were evaluated as a function of foliage distribution using lidar (light detection and ranging) observations for a sugar maple (Acer saccharum) stand in the Turkey Lakes Watershed. Along the vertical profile of vegetation, horizontal slices of probability of light transmittance were derived from an Optech ALTM 1225 instrument's return pulses (two discrete, 15-cm diameter returns) using indicator kriging. These predictions were compared with (i) below canopy (1-cm spatial resolution) transect measurements of the fraction of photosynthetically active radiation (FPAR) and (ii) measurements of tree height. A first-order trend was initally removed from the lidar returns. The vertical distribution of vegetation height was then sliced into nine percentiles and indicator variograms were fitted to them. Variogram parameters were found to vary as a function of foliage height above ground. In this paper, we show that the relationship between ground measurements of FPAR and kriged estimates of vegetation cover becomes stronger and tighter at coarser spatial resolutions. Three-dimensional maps of foliage distribution were computed as stacks of the percentile probability surfaces. These probability surfaces showed correspondence with individual tree-based observations and provided a much more detailed characterization of quasi-continuous foliage distribution. These results suggest that discrete-return lidar provides a promising technology to capture variations of foliage characteristics in forests to support the development of functional linkages between biophysical and ecological studies
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