27364 - Forest inventories and remote sensing

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Planning and management of agro-territorial, forest and landscape (cod. 8532)

    Also valid for Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Sciences and Management of Nature (cod. 9257)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, the student will have acquired a basic understanding of forest monitoring, with a specific focus on the most recent developments in airborne and satellite remote sensing. In particular, the student will be able to: (i) plan and carry out the monitoring of forest resources; (ii) know and apply basic procedures based on airborne and satellite remote sensing.

Course contents

Background knowledge: the student must have an adequate background knowledge in statistics and physics and basic knowledge and practical skills in geomatics (GIS, principles of remote sensing); if not already available, such a background can be acquired from the optional course 57929 (Laboratorio di geomatica).

Unit 1. Design of forest inventories (14 hrs)

1.1 Meaning and components of a forest inventory. Forest surveys vs inventories (2 hrs)

1.2 Basics of statistics (2 hrs)

1.3 Sampling methods in forest inventories: random, systematic, stratified, by groups, multi-phase (2 hrs)

1.4 Practicals: GIS for the sampling of inventory points (with QGIS) (3 hrs)

1.5 Field sampling according to INFC and ProgettoBosco procedures (with elements of field mensuration) (3 hrs)

1.6 Practicals: application of ProgettoBosco procedures for the execution of a sampling plot (2 hrs)

Unit 2. Forest inventories (11 hrs)

2.1 The Italian National Inventory of Forest C stocks (INFC): methodology (2 hrs)

2.2 The Italian National Inventory of Forest C stocks (INFC): key results and implications for sustainable management and planning (2 hrs)

2.3 Other examples of forest inventories in Europe and in the world (2 hrs)

2.4 Forest inventory harmonization in space and time (2 hrs)

2.5 Forest health monitoring: the ICP-Forests network (3 hrs)

Unit 3. Elements of photogrammetry (5 hrs)

5.1 Elements of photogrammetry

5.2 Practicals: photogrammetry applications in forest classification (with QGIS) (2 hrs)

5.3 Seminar: development of the forest map of Regione Emilia Romagna (1 hr)

Unit 4. Elements of remote sensing (10 hrs)

4.1 Characteristics of the main sensors for Earth Observation and associated image repositories (2 hrs)

4.2 Principles of remote sensing, with specific reference to Sentinel-2 and Landsat missions (2 hrs)

4.3 Practicals: radiometric calibration of Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8 imagery for an urban forest (Prati di Caprara, Bologna) (2 hrs)

4.4 Practicals: topographic corrections of Sentinel-2 imagery for an urban forest (Prati di Caprara, Bologna) (2 hrs)

4.5 Practicals (for final test): spectral signature analysis, meaning and computation of spectral indices (2 hrs)

Unit 5. Remote sensing applications for forestry and the environment (20 hrs)

5.1 Supervised and unsupervised classification of land-use types (3 hrs)

5.2 The CORINE Land Cover classification (1 hr)

5.3 Practicals: supervised classification of land-use types (with GRASS) (3 hrs)

5.4 Practicals: unsupervised classification of land-use types (with GRASS) (3 hrs)

5.5 Spectral indices for the assessment of vegetation structure, nutritional status, disturbances (NDVI, NBR, REIP, OTCI) (2 hrs)

5.6 Practicals: change detection for the analysis of forest disturbance (with QGIS) (1 hr)

5.7 Remote sensing of forest biomass: laser scanning and radar techniques (2 hrs)

5.8 Spatial interpolation techniques; spatialization of forest inventory data by the kNN (k nearest neighbours) technique (2 hrs)

5.9 Practicals: spatialization of forest inventory data by the kNN technique (3 hrs)


Considering the wide range of topics addressed, the course can be studied on slides and material provided by the lecturer on IOL (Insegnamenti OnLine). For further reading:

1. Brivio P.A., Lechi G., Zilioli E. (2006) Principi e Metodi di Telerilevamento. CittàStudi Edizioni

2. Corona P. (2000). Introduzione al rilevamento campionario delle risorse forestali. CLUSF. Firenze

3. Dainelli N. (2011). L'osservazione della terra. Fotointerpretazione. Dario Flaccovio Editore

4. Casagrande L., Cavallini P., Frigeri A., Furieri A., Marchesini I., Neteler M. (2012). GIS Open Source. GRASS GIS, Quantum GIS e SpatiaLite. Elementi di software libero applicato al territorio. Dario Flaccovio Editore.

Teaching methods

The course is largely based on lectures, integrated by a large number of practicals under the direct guide of the lecturer, concerning (i) the planning and execution of inventory measurements and (ii) the analysis of remote sensing data in a fully equipped computer room, as detailed in the syllabus. Lectures will be integrated with meetings with professionals about topics covered by the course.

As concerns the teaching methods of this course unit, all students must attend Module 1, 2 [https://www.unibo.it/en/services-and-opportunities/health-and-assistance/health-and-safety/online-course-on-health-and-safety-in-study-and-internship-areas] online, while Module 3 on health and safety is to be attended in class. Information about Module 3 attendance schedule is available on the website of your degree programme.

Assessment methods

The course is part of Corso Integrato (Monitoraggio degli ecosistemi) together with 66101 (Ecosistemi vegetali, habitat protetti e ripristini ambientali).
The joint exams for the entire Corso integrato take into account the knowledge and proficiency of the student in both courses. The knowledge and proficiency in the current course are assessed as follows.

The test is based on a final oral exam. The assessment is based on the understanding demonstrated by the individual student, on the discussion of practicals and and on the quality of his presentation. The exam lasts approximatively 45 minutes.

Teaching tools

Practicals in computer room, with PCs available for each student and freeware software (QGIS, GRASS) for image analysis. Instrumentation for forest mensuration during the field practicals. Slides for all lectures are made available beforehand to the students through the Virtuale portal (virtuale.unibo.it).

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Federico Magnani


Quality education Responsible consumption and production Climate Action Life on land

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.