LiDAR & hedgerows at the British Ecological Society Conference

I attended the British Ecological Societies 2015 conference over 4 days in December in the beautiful city of Edinburgh complete with Christmas jumpers and a ceilidh. It was a great opportunity to present my work – using LiDAR to model and measure the effects of cutting and rejuvenation management on hedgerow structural condition as wildlife habitat; to over 1500 delegates and to engage with the more ecology focused side of my PhD.

(image credit: BES on twitter)
(image credit: BES on twitter)

The conference saw talks and posters from across a range of ecological disciplines including using various remote sensing techniques to measure and monitor forests from the global to the local scale. This included Markus Eichhorn from The University of Nottingham who has invited me to present my work to his research group in the new year and was keen to hear of other relevant work going on in Newcastle CEG. I would encourage anyone in CEG whose work is based around forest ecology to consider attending next year’s meeting as their was a decent sized community of forest modelers in attendance.

poster (2)

Ensuring I could effectively communicate the potential of my work to such a broad range of scientists attending the conference was a big challenge and exciting opportunity. The conference was a great reminder for those working with emerging technologies or applying existing technologies to new challenges that communicating to the end users of your work is key. In my case this includes agricultural ecologists and policy makers with a range of interest and familiarity with remote sensing and LiDAR. I was asked everything from “What is LiDAR?” to questions about how LiDAR could add to a huge range of ecological monitoring challenges, stressing the real need for communication and sharing of ideas across disciplines. I also believe attending BES was a great way for my work to stand out and to really engage with what is novel about my project, as the only presenter (that I heard of) attending from a civil engineering discipline I was in a really unique position.


Quantifying hedgerow structure using terrestrial laser scanning

In January we were lucky enough to avoid the worst of the winter snow, wind and even rain on fieldwork based around the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford. This allowed us to take our first leaf-off hedgerow scans using a dual wavelength, full-waveform terrestrial laser scanner (SALCA – loaned to us from Salford University).

SACLA in action
SALCA in action

We visited the Defra hedgerow rejuvenation experiment at Newbottle Estate and scanned hedges managed under various rejuvenation techniques including coppice, circular saw, midlands style hedge laying and wildlife hedging. These first scans will form the basis of a methodology to better quantify hedgerow structure; developing processing algorithms capable of extracting structural variables including hedgerow height, width and gap fraction. Further scans will be undertaken using a hand held mobile scanner (ZEB1).

Hedgerow managed under coppice rejuvenation
Hedgerow managed under coppice rejuvenation

The long term aim of the project is to both determine and further develop the potential of terrestrial laser scanning to quantify ecologically relevant elements of hedgerow structure. Being able to better quantify hedgerow structure and the impacts of management on structural condition is relevant to wildlife conservation within agri-ecosystems. Many hedgerows in the UK are either over managed or neglected, where cutting and rejuvenation techniques need to be used appropriately to achieve good structural condition over time. We anticipate a future role for terrestrial laser scanning in differentiating hedgerow under different management regimes, with differing structural condition and differing value for wildlife.

Lyndsey Graham