Finite element analysis of trees in the wind based on terrestrial laser scanning data

T. Jackson*, A. Shenkin, A. Wellpott, K. Calders, N. Origo, M. Disney, A. Burt, P. Raumonen, B. Gardiner, M. Herold, T. Fourcaud, Y. Malhi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Wind damage is an important driver of forest structure and dynamics, but it is poorly understood in natural broadleaf forests. This paper presents a new approach in the study of wind damage: combining terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) data and finite element analysis. Recent advances in tree reconstruction from TLS data allowed us to accurately represent the 3D geometry of a tree in a mechanical simulation, without the need for arduous manual mapping or simplifying assumptions about tree shape. We used this simulation to predict the mechanical strains produced on the trunks of 21 trees in Wytham Woods, UK, and validated it using strain data measured on these same trees. For a subset of five trees near the anemometer, the model predicted a five-minute time-series of strain with a mean cross-correlation coefficient of 0.71, when forced by the locally measured wind speed data. Additionally, the maximum strain associated with a 5 ms−1 or 15 ms-1 wind speed was well predicted by the model (N = 17, R2 = 0.81 and R2 = 0.79, respectively). We also predicted the critical wind speed at which the trees will break from both the field data and models and find a good overall agreement (N = 17, R2 = 0.40). Finally, the model predicted the correct trend in the fundamental frequencies of the trees (N = 20, R2 = 0.38) although there was a systematic underprediction, possibly due to the simplified treatment of material properties in the model. The current approach relies on local wind data, so must be combined with wind flow modelling to be applicable at the landscape-scale or over complex terrain. This approach is applicable at the plot level and could also be applied to open-grown trees, such as in cities or parks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-144
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2019


  • Critical wind speed
  • Finite element analysis
  • Resonant frequency
  • Terrestrial laser scanning
  • TLS
  • Wind damage


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