Merrick, M. J., J. L. Koprowski, and C. Wilcox. 2013. Into the third dimension: Benefits of incorporating LiDAR into wildlife habitat models. In Gottfried, Gerald J.; Ffolliott, Peter F.; Gebow, Brooke S.; Eskew, Lane G.; Collins, Loa C., comps. 2013. Mer
LiDAR (Light detection and ranging) is a tool with potential for characterizing wildlife habitat by providing detailed, three-dimensional landscape information not available from other remote sensing applications. The ability to accurately map structural components such as canopy height, canopy cover, woody debris, tree density, and ground surface has potential to improve wildlife habitat models because animals interact and respond to three-dimensional habitat features. Prior to LiDAR, accurate measurements of structural features were difficult to obtain over large areas as other remote sensing data are based on two-dimensional spectral responses. The Southwest harbors a large diversity of unique vegetation communities, each with an associated wildlife assemblage with various management needs. Managers can use LiDAR to accurately characterize vegetation and landscape structural characteristics for entire districts or management units. Data surfaces derived from the LiDAR point cloud can be readily incorporated into species-specific or multispecies habitat models. Although LiDAR has received much attention in characterizing forest structure, fewer studies (n = 29) have suggested or incorporated this technology to improve wildlife habitat models specifically. Herein we provide a review of current LiDAR applications in wildlife habitat models, provide future directions, and detail how LiDAR can increase our ability to represent the world that animals experience.