Lasers Used to Generate Remarkably Detailed 3D Map of the Amazon

© Carnegie Institution for Science

The Amazon rainforest remains one of the few places on Earth that's largely still shrouded in mystery, home to countless plant and animal species yet unknown to science -- but thanks to remarkable new laser imaging technology, our view of the region just got a whole lot clearer.

Armed with new technology called Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar), the team of scientists lead by Greg Asner from the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University laser-scanned the forest cover at the rate of 139 square miles per hour. The resulting images -- seen in these remarkably clear, three-dimensional maps of the Peruvian Amazon -- are quite possibly the most detailed look at the world's largest rainforest ever unveiled.

Collecting such a comprehensive view of the Amazon, however, is not merely for novelty. The colorful visualization was rendered by an onboard spectrometer, which is capable of assessing chemical and optical properties, reports The Guardian.

"The technology that we have here gives us a first-ever look at the Amazon in its full three-dimensional detail, over very large regions," says Asner. "[It's] the critical information that's missing for managing these systems, for conserving them and for developing policy to better utilise the Amazon basin as a resource, while still protecting what it has in terms of its biological diversity."

Tags: Amazonia