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Earth NASA Science

NASA Creates First Global Forest Map Using Lasers 55

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-a-tree-is-measured-and-nobody-is-around-to-see-it dept.
MikeCapone writes "Scientists, using three NASA satellites, have created a first-of-its-kind map that details the height of the world's forests. The data was collected from NASA's ICESat, Terra and Aqua satellites. The latter two satellites are responsible for most of NASA's Gulf spill imagery. The data collected will help scientists understand how the world's forests both store and process carbon. While there are many local and regional canopy maps, this is the very first global map using a uniform method for measure."
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NASA Creates First Global Forest Map Using Lasers

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  • Lasers? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Allnighte (1794642) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:41PM (#32984832)
    Since when did NASA get sharks into satellites in space?
  • So little forest (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:44PM (#32984864) Homepage
    Coming from a place with so much forest, I sometimes forget how little of the world is covered in forest. I love the forest, and could not imagine living in a place with no forest. Although it seems that's how most of the world is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Any scorched trees in your neck of the woods? Plus, you get the awesome benefit of forest therapy:

      http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20080502f1.html [japantimes.co.jp]

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      Yeah. Turns out most of the world is salt water.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by camperdave (969942)
      I miss the forest. I haven't had a chance to get into the woods yet this year. Closest I got was an evening on the shore of Lake Ontario. I will be going this Governor Simcoe Day [wikipedia.org].
      • by fifedrum (611338)

        Ah, Lake Ontario, where the ice forms on your toes all the way through to August... (at least when it flips, eh)

    • by evilviper (135110) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @10:03PM (#32985818) Journal

      I know someone who grew up on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, who can't imagine how people live anywhere else.

      I personally grew up near a river, and am continually trying to find places to live that are near (slightly secluded) rivers or similar.

      I suppose we all have our own favorite bits of nature. But I think we can agree that those who live in the concrete jungle are completely bat-shit insane.

      • by yyxx (1812612)

        The only reason you can live there in the kind of comfort, health, and luxury that you do is because hundreds of millions of people live in concrete jungles, at the kinds of densities that support efficient manufacturing and research. The tax payers living in those concrete jungles even subsidize your lifestyle, with roads and other infrastructure.

        So, before you talk about other people being "bat-shit insane", realize that you are dependent the "concrete jungle" and the people living there. In a sense, yo

        • Sure, until you run out of farmers and then have nothing to eat.
          • by yyxx (1812612)

            Industrial farming requires very little rural population. When it does, it is migrant workers, not people enjoying the pleasant surroundings.

        • by evilviper (135110)

          Your whole theory is bullshit for the following reasons:

          It's only in the recent past that cities have grown this dense. Sure, New York's been a mess for a century or so, but pretty much nowhere else, and yet, people lived just as comfortably as they do today.

          There are innumerable less dense cities that more than pay for their own infrastructure. The modest-sized city I grew up in (with the quiet, river-front property) not only pays for it's own infrastructure, but gets screwed out of ABOUT HALF of local t

          • by yyxx (1812612)

            To build things like the desktop PC you're using, or the Internet you're communicating over, to develop the medical advances you're enjoying, etc. requires big population centers. They simply wouldn't exist if the entire US was covered in widely separated cities of 100000 inhabitants or less.

            And you may think that you're "sinking money into nearby cities", but your modest-size city (aka suburb) wouldn't have much manufacturing or places to go if it wasn't near a big city.

            You are right that cities need to "

            • by evilviper (135110)

              To build things like the desktop PC you're using, or the Internet you're communicating over, to develop the medical advances you're enjoying, etc. requires big population centers.

              You're welcome to prove it. Much is currently done in cities because that's where lots of people happen to be. Manufacturing, scientific advancements, inventions, etc. all happened when there were fewer people per sq km, and continue to happen in less dense areas.

              And you may think that you're "sinking money into nearby cities", b

              • by yyxx (1812612)

                For proof, just look at a map of the economic productivity, subtract out the 100 mile areas around big cities and look at what's left. Or look at the contributions of rural vs urban states to the GNP.

                Much is currently done in cities because that's where lots of people happen to be

                Congratulations, you're getting it! Big cities house large numbers of people efficiently, they reduce infrastructure costs, and they serve as central distribution points.

                Utter nonsense. That's undeniably not the case here, and I'm

                • by evilviper (135110)

                  For proof

                  That's not proof, that's correlation, which could be caused by any of a million different factors. My facts, like the fact the industrial revolution happened, despite cities that were much smaller, go directly to the point, and have not be refuted thus far.

                  Big cities house large numbers of people efficiently, they reduce infrastructure costs, and they serve as central distribution points.

                  Infrastructure costs for THE CITY GOVERNMENT may be reduced. Sky-high prices for land, housing, and commercial

                  • by yyxx (1812612)

                    My facts, like the fact the industrial revolution happened, despite cities that were much smaller, go directly to the point, and have not be refuted thus far.

                    The industrial revolution was two centuries ago. Yeah, you can build steam engines, looms, and Ford T's in small towns. But we're talking about modern lifestyles here: Internet, DVDs, desktop supercomputers, 3D movies, and cell phones, and all for a pittance.

                    If you want to make the ridiculous claim that you can do all that without urban areas of a mi

  • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:48PM (#32984890)
    1. Shoot laser at target area
    2. Is target area aflame?
    Yes - Target area contained a forest previously
    No - Target area was not a forest
    • This will be good to find out what is the amount of destruction human kind is making to the worlds forests.
  • by catmistake (814204) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @07:58PM (#32984950) Journal
    RUN, FOREST, RUN!!
  • by c0lo (1497653) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @08:08PM (#32985004)
    From TFA:

    "What we really want is a map of above-ground biomass, and the height map helps get us there," said Richard Houghton, an expert in terrestrial ecosystem science.

    How's the height of the forest relevant to the storage and processing carbon? (not saying that is not relevant. Just asking how is relevant)
    Like what? Grasses in savannah/prairies/outback-bushland doesn't store/process carbon?

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @08:18PM (#32985072) Homepage

      Like what? Grasses in savannah/prairies/outback-bushland doesn't store/process carbon?

      Less than tall trees, obviously. While medium-height shrubs would contain somewhere in between.

      There are obvious deficiencies, like that they probably care about biomass density and you could have dense foliage under a shorter canopy. But it is a useful first-order indication. That's why they said the height map "helps get us there", not "is the end-all be-all, yippe we're done."

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Combine this data with high res infrared satellite images to determine the type of foliage and density, add some extra geographic information, like soils, weather, altitude, etc, and you can get a really good estimate of the species of certain forest and the the amount of carbon it can capture among other information. Keep everything updated at least every year and you can already do some really interesting environmental stuff, like plague detection and prevention.

        I use satellite and aerial photography for

        • by beanluc (780880)

          I went to the Save The Redwoods League annual meeting last year and saw a heatmap that was produced from LIDAR remote-sensing.

          The heatmap was of a several-square-km's area of second-growth Coast Redwood forest. The "heat" metric represented the rate at which carbon was being sequestered in new biomass. Both height and girth of trees were important.

          In another presentation, the LIDAR data yielded an unbelievably detailed 3D model of the entire forest at all levels, from ground to canopy. This informs conserva

    • They're interested in carbon sequestration. Trees store carbon for long periods. In a short amount of time grasses grow, fixing CO2, then die and decompose, in the process releasing most of that fixed CO2. Trees grow (sequester carbon) for decades or centuries, then are often cut up to build paper and houses, maintaining that storage. Additionally, a lot of work is being done on determining the effects of increased global CO2 and temperature on the worlds plants. Grasses have a C4 metabolism, which is not
  • So.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gaderael (1081429)

    Anyone else hoping to see a splotch of green in the Antarctic besides me?

  • by Viadd (173388) on Wednesday July 21, 2010 @09:27PM (#32985566)

    These are the days of lasers in the jungle.

    Lasers in the jungle somewhere.

  • ""LIDAR is unparalleled for this type of measurement," said Michael Lefsky of the Colorado State University, responsible for capturing the data.
    He explains that it would have taken weeks to capture this data in the field where LIDAR can capture it in seconds."

    Hmmm....I'm pretty sure it took weeks to collect and validate this data.

    Even if you're just going to count acquisition time you're talking about a week to get full un-obscured total global coverage.
    Then you need to cull the bad data, align the good dat

    • by pspahn (1175617)
      ...and if you're interested in purchasing trees, please don't go to Home Depot, Wal Mart, or whatever big box you have. Go to your local nursery/garden center. They actually know a thing or two about plants and will have a much better selection of higher quality plants. You might pay a little extra, but it's better than having to buy another one next year because your tree died.
    • You have to understand how they did this. First, they identified where THEY THOUGHT forests were, then they used the results from their height-measuring lasers.

      I personally live in NE Florida, and regularly drive down to middle Florida (mickey mouse's house) -- there are LOTS of trees around, but none of them show up on the map in the article. So, telling me to plant a tree makes me want to ask, "Where? There are tons of trees around already." Could there be more? Sure, but they wouldn't show up on the

  • It is really important to remember that humans have been deforesting the planet for several thousand years now. I'd be interested in knowing what the pre-human impact, post-last-ice-age forest map looks like. Hint: England, Ireland, Western Europe etc I'm looking at you!

  • Dead forests (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pspahn (1175617)

    Apparently they don't take into account all the millions of acres of dead and dying forests that result from the Mountain Pine Beetle. I know for a fact that a very large chunk of the "forest" shown in Northern Colorado is actually nothing more than a vast land filled with billions of brown sticks.

    Of course, many of you may know the situation is similar in many other areas. I've never been to BC, but from everything I've read, the situation there is 1000% worse.

    Oh well, that's what happens when you have l

    • by hawkfish (8978)

      Oh well, that's what happens when you have large scale fire mitigation in populated forests.

      No, that's what happens when we warm the climate so much the beetle larvae don't get killed by winter frosts.

Center meeting at 4pm in 2C-543.

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