Convert points layer into a circular polygon on R


As the title says, I am supposed to convert a point layer similar to this one (it represents the perimeter of a tree at a certain height, and it's a sf that I called "points" in R):

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I would like to convert this layer into a circular polygon in order to calculate its circumference just like in this example:

enter image description here

I tried to use the "st_cast" function in my script:

enter image description here

Unfortunately, this script doesn't generated what I expected... Indeed, the polygon generated looks like a weird shape:

enter image description here enter image description here

I don't really know what to do to correct this dysfunction because I am not very familiar with R. Do you have any adea about what I am supposed to do in order to create a shape just like in the example?

Thank you very much in advance for your help!


Bonjour @AlexDon,

You need two additional elements to your solution:

  • order points
  • combine the points together.

Here's how a solution could look:


N <- 10
points <- tibble(
  theta = runif(N, max = 2*pi),
  x = sin(theta),
  y = cos(theta),
 # this is a value we can use to order points
  atan2 = atan2(x, y)

points <- points %>% 
 # order points and add the last point to close the polygon
  arrange(atan2) %>% 

pol <- points %>% 
  # you could wrap the next steps in a summarise as you did in your example
  st_as_sf(coords = c("x", "y")) %>% 
  st_combine() %>% 

pol %>% 
  plot(col = "lightgrey")

pol %>% st_cast("LINESTRING") %>% st_length()
#> 5.771126


This is an interesting problem. I like the solution proposed by @etiennebr and I agree that the key part will be running sf::st_length() on a polygon to get the circumference.

I am afraid though that the solution proposed does not quite generalize: the sorting of points according to atan2 assumes that 1) the polygon is convex and 2) that the coordinate reference system has point zero somewhere inside the circle-like polygon. These assumptions may not be always met.

Consider this polygon - it is the county Mecklenburg from the well known & much liked North Carolina shapefile that ships with {sf}:


shape <- st_read(system.file("shape/nc.shp", package="sf")) %>%  
  filter(CNTY_ID == 2041) %>%  # Mecklenburg, as in Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
  st_transform(crs = 6543) # official planar CRS of NC

points <- st_cast(shape, "POINT") # raw points - how to interpret these??

plot(st_geometry(shape), col = "lightgrey")
plot(st_geometry(points), col = "red", pch = 4, add = T)

The shape is not convex, and the origin of the official North Carolina CRS is way outside of this polygon; as a consequence the ordering of points by atan2() values does not produce a satisfactory polygon:

points$atan2 <- atan2(st_coordinates(points)[, "X"],
                      st_coordinates(points)[, "Y"])

polygon <-  points %>% 
  arrange(atan2) %>% 
  add_row(slice_head(.)) %>% 
  st_combine() %>% 

plot(st_geometry(polygon), col = "lightgrey")
plot(st_geometry(points), col = "red", pch = 4, add = T)

As an alternative I propose a different workflow: one that builds on sf::st_convex_hull() function.

The st_convex_hull() likes a multipoint object for its an argument, thus the st_union() call.

hull <- points %>% 
  st_union() %>% 

plot(st_geometry(hull), col = "lightgrey")
plot(st_geometry(points), col = "red", pch = 4, add = T)

A convex hull will approximate a circle nicely.

Should the convex hull give you too great a simplification you may consider a concave hull; an approach I like is via concaveman::concaveman(); it will take a points (ie. not a mutipoint) object as an argument + it has additional argument concavity to guide how closely it should hew to the data (polygons with concavity less than 1 can look rather silly).

hull <- points %>% 
  concaveman::concaveman(concavity = 5/4)

plot(st_geometry(hull), col = "lightgrey")
plot(st_geometry(points), col = "red", pch = 4, add = T)

Regardless of the approach to find your polygon the final call should be sf::st_length() on your polygon cast as a linestring to determine its circumference.

hull %>% 
  st_cast("LINESTRING") %>% 
539658.2 [US_survey_foot]

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