Wiley, Applied Vegetation Science, 4(13), p. 510-519
Question: To what extent can aerial photography be used for taxonomic identification of Amazonian tree crowns?Objective: To investigate whether a combination of dichotomous keys and a web-based interface is a suitable approach to identify tree crowns.Location: The fieldwork was conducted at Tiputini Biodiversity Station located in the Amazon, eastern Ecuador.Methods: High-resolution imagery was taken from an airplane flying at a low altitude (600 m) above the ground. Imagery of the observable upper layer of the tree crowns was used for the analysis. Dichotomous identification keys for different types of crowns were produced and tested. The identification keys were designed to be web-based interactive, using Google Earth as the main online platform. The taxa analysed were Iriartea, Astrocaryum, Inga, Parkia, Cecropia, Pourouma, Guarea, Otoba, Lauraceae and Pouteria.Results: This paper demonstrates that a combination of photo-imagery, dichotomous keys and a web-based interface can be useful for the taxonomic identification of Amazonian trees based on their crown characteristics. The keys tested with an overall identification accuracy of over 50% for five of the ten taxa with three of them showing accuracy greater than 70% (Iriartea, Astrocaryum and Cecropia).Conclusions: The application of dichotomous keys and a web-based interface provides a new methodological approach for taxonomic identification of various Amazonian tree crowns. Overall, the study showed that crowns with a medium-rough texture are less reliably identified than crowns with smoother or well-defined surfaces.