Doneus, M., Banaszek, Ł., Verhoeven, G.J., 2022. The Impact of Vegetation on the Visibility of Archaeological Features in Airborne Laser Scanning Datasets from Different Acquisition Dates. Remote Sensing 14, 858.
Digital elevation models derived from airborne laser scanning have found worldwide application in archaeology and other disciplines. A key feature that makes these models so valuable lies in their capacity to represent micro-relief features indicating traces of past human activity. While detection of these often faint traces in vegetated areas benefits from maximum leaf-off conditions during data acquisition, countrywide collection of data must make compromises and often cannot take place in the most appropriate seasons. In this paper, we identify the impact of leaf-on conditions on the distribution of ground returns and present what types of archaeological objects might remain unnoticeable if the flight date is outside the desirable time window. Comparing five ALS data acquisition campaigns from both leaf-off (April and November) and leaf-on conditions (May and June), we demonstrate how foliage affects the morphology of relief features as recorded in ALS derivatives, and we identify other effects on archaeological interpretation caused by changing vegetation conditions. The results encourage evaluation of countrywide general-purpose data for their applicability in archaeology.