Terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) technology characterizes standing trees with millimetric precision. An important step to accurately quantify tree volume and above-ground biomass using TLS point clouds is the discrimination between timber and leaf components. This study evaluates the performance of machine learning (ML)-derived models aimed at discriminating timber and leaf TLS point clouds, focusing on eight Mediterranean tree species datasets. The results show the best accuracies for random forests, gradient boosting machine, stacked ensemble model, and deep learning models with an average F1 score equal to 0.92. The top-performing ML-derived models showed well-balanced average precision and recall rates, ranging from 0.86 to 0.91 and 0.92 to 0.96 for precision and recall, respectively. Our findings show that Italian maple, European beech, hazel, and small-leaf lime tree species have more accurate F1 scores, with the best average F1 score of 0.96. The factors influencing the timber-leaf discrimination include phenotypic factors, such as bark surface (i.e., roughness and smoothness), technical issues (i.e., noise points and misclassification of points), and secondary factors (i.e., bark defects, lianas, and microhabitats). The top-performing ML-derived models report a time computation ranging from 8 to 37 s for processing 2 million points. Future studies are encouraged to calibrate, configure, and validate the potential of top-performing ML-derived models on other tree species and at the plot level.
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