3-D Forest Mapping with LIDAR

A novel piece of equipment that allows users to create digital maps of any terrain could come in very handy for conservationists. LIDAR, or light detection and ranging, provides much more detailed information about the particular landscape than does an aerial photograph.

"The LIDAR measurements will give us a highly accurate depiction of the forest floor and tree heights," said Dan Porter, of the Save-the-Redwoods League. "This application of LIDAR is fairly new. It's pretty cutting edge."

A laser beam fired at the ground from a plane to measure the distance to the ground can record the exact position of up to 85,000 points on the ground each second. This data is then used to make a 3-D map of the area. This technology will help conservationists find areas particularly vulnerable to weather-related or anthropogenic effects and permit them to refocus their efforts accordingly. In the specific case of forestry management, officials will have the ability to identify young forest canopies too dense or at risk for not maturing into fully-developed trees. Furthermore, they will also be able to calculate the heights of individual trees within one or two feet and, in some cases, identify the types of trees observed.

LIDAR is currently being used by several environmental groups, including the Save-the-Redwoods league, to construct maps of the Redwood National Park and find large tree specimens. When all the mapping flights are done, the data will be placed in the public domain and given to Steven C. Sillett, a professor of forestry of Humboldt State University, whose students will then use it to explore the forest and measure the heights of trees in areas of interest.

Via ::Mapping a Redwood Forest with LIDAR (blog)

See also: ::Mapping, Art, Kids, and Carbon?, ::Renewable Planet: Mapping Green, ::Finding Fuels: An Alternative Fuel Mapping System, ::Doing what We Do Best: Saving Trees, ::Less Dense Forests Better For Curbing Greenhouse Gases