Use of Unoccupied Aerial Systems to Characterize Woody Vegetation across Silvopastoral Systems in Ecuador.

David Green, Pete Smith, Juan Pablo Inamagua Uyaguari* (Corresponding Author), P Sangoluisa, J. Torres, Nuala Fitton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The trees in pastures are recognized for the benefits they provide to livestock, farmers, and the environment; nevertheless, their study has been restricted to small areas, making it difficult to upscale this information to national levels. For tropical developing countries, it is particularly important to understand the contribution of these systems to national carbon budgets. However, the costs associated with performing field measurements might limit the acquisition of this information. The use of unoccupied aerial systems (UAS) for ecological surveys has proved useful for collecting information at larger scales and with significantly lower costs. This study proposes a methodology that integrates field and UAS surveys to study trees on pasture areas across different terrain conditions. Our overall objective was to test the suitability of UAS surveys to the estimation of aboveground biomass (AGB), relying mainly on open-source software. The tree heights and crown diameters were measured on 0.1-hectare circular plots installed on pasture areas on livestock farms in the Amazon and Coastal regions in Ecuador. An UAS survey was performed on 1-hectare plots containing the circular plots. Field measurements were compared against canopy-height model values and biomass estimates using the two sources of information. Our results demonstrate that UAS surveys can be useful for identifying tree spatial arrangements and provide good estimates of tree height (RMSE values ranged from 0.01 to 3.53 m), crown diameter (RMSE values ranged from 0.04 to 4.47 m), and tree density (density differences ranging from 21.5 to 64.3%), which have a direct impact on biomass estimates. The differences in biomass estimates between the UAS and the field-measured values ranged from 25 to 75%, depending on site characteristics, such as slope and tree coverage. The results suggest that UASs are reliable and feasible tools with which to study tree characteristics on pastures, covering larger areas than field methods only.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3386
Number of pages21
JournalRemote Sensing
Early online date14 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2022


  • photogrammetry
  • silvopastoral
  • livestock landscapes


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