New approach to mapping forest biomass to measure carbon stores
A CSIRO-designed ground-based lidar instrument is being used with airborne lidar sensors to remotely map vegetation structure and carbon balance parameters in a NASA-funded study.
25 February 2008 | Updated 14 October 2011
Forests are the main above-ground store of carbon, totalling around 90 per cent globally.
With forests so critical in controlling the carbon cycle, it is important to be able to reliably estimate their carbon stores across a large scale.
Airborne and spaceborne instruments can measure forests over a wide area but they can't accurately assess the size and number density of tree trunks and branches beneath the forest canopy.
The CSIRO-designed ECHIDNA™, a patented, ground-based light detection and ranging (lidar) instrument, is being combined with airborne and spaceborne lidar to provide a practical technique for broad-scale structural mapping of forests.
The project is funded under NASA’s Remote Sensing Science for Climate and Carbon program, which is using new technologies to better understand terrestrial ecosystems and the carbon cycle.
CSIRO began developing the ECHIDNA™ instrument in 2001 and received assistance with field validation activities from Forest and Wood Products Australia.
In late 2007, CSIRO used the ECHIDNA™ to measure forest biomass in four sites across the New England region of the United States of America (USA) - Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.
With its multi-angular view of the forest, the ECHIDNA™ can simultaneously assess both the woody and non-woody components of vegetation.
The ECHIDNA™ measures three-dimensional (3D) data relevant to:
This project will contribute to a greater understanding of the influence of forests in the global carbon cycle.
However, it has not previously been used for biomass assessment in this way.
Members of the project team will use information from airborne and spaceborne lidar sensors, developed and operated by NASA, to scale up the detailed data from the ECHIDNA™ into biomass estimates across the landscape.
The different data types will be linked using a Geometrical Optical Radiative Transfer (GORT) model.
This project is funded by US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
CSIRO is working in collaboration with:
Boston University, Massachusetts, USA
The City University of New York, New York, USA.
The development of forests to offset industrial carbon emissions requires reliable measurements of the carbon stored in those forests.
These measurements are also important for countries to report back to international treaties on carbon emissions.
The methods developed in this project will provide a basis for accurately modelling above-ground biomass over large areas.
They are expected to assist in more efficient mapping and monitoring of forest biomass and carbon balance parameters.
This will contribute to our greater understanding of the influence of the terrestrial carbon balance on the global carbon cycle.
About the scientists
Remote Sensing researchers, Dr Glenn Newnham and Dr Darius Culvenor of CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and Dr David Jupp and Dr Jenny Lovell of CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research are involved in the US:
Researchers from Boston University Geography Department, led by Professor Alan Strahler, are testing and validating the scaled-up data from the ECHIDNA™.
They will integrate it with information from the airborne and spaceborne lidar sensors.
Read more about Forestry research.