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23 Feb 2012

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LiDAR Data Helps NASA Map Height of Forests, Improving Global Efforts to Monitor Carbon

Added by Category: Daily Intelligence Brief, General


According to researchers, knowing the height of Earth’s forests is critical to estimating their biomass, or the amount of carbon they contain, which will ultimately help scientists understand the role that forests play in global warming. Along these same lines, scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Maryland, College and Woods Hole Research Center created a map using LiDAR that depicts the highest points in the forest canopy to help in our understanding of forests and climate change.

Thanks to the LiDAR data, NASA could determine that forest heights decrease at higher elevations and are highest at low latitudes. Trees also decrease in height the farther they are from the tropics. The following quote from lead researcher Marc Simard of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory truly showcases the value of using LiDAR:

“Our map contains one of the best descriptions of the height of Earth’s forests currently available at regional and global scales,” Simard said. “This study demonstrates the tremendous potential that spaceborne lidar holds for revealing new information about Earth’s forests.”

The full results of the study were published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Biogeosciences.

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