Scanning forests for their carbon secrets
Researchers at CSIRO have been scanning trees (in this case, Jeffrey pine trees in the United States of America) with ground-based laser scanning technology (called ECHIDNA) to estimate how much plant material forests have. (0:58)
Data on the type and structure of plant material helps them understand how healthy forests are and how much carbon is stored in them. This technology will help Australia better estimate carbon stocks in forests across the continent to figure out how much carbon we might be able to store in our landscapes to help reduce climate change impacts.
Visualisations: Xiaoyuan Yang and JiHyun Kim
Boston University and CSIRO LiDAR team (alphabetically):
About the project
The collaborative project between CSIRO and Boston University involved measuring 3D forest structure using CSIRO’s ground-based laser scanner called ECHIDNA. Data collected from the ECHIDNA laser scanner were analysed to estimate the size and number of trees in each site. Based on the information gathered about tree size and amount of plant material it is possible to estimate carbon stocks. This ground-based laser scanning data has also been combined with satellite imagery as part of a broader project to map forest carbon stocks at a continental scale.
What is ECHIDNA?
The ECHIDNA instrument works by directing thousands of laser pulses into the forest and recording the energy that bounces back over time. Known as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), the technology is now widely used to build realistic 3D scenes for applications in construction, architecture, manufacturing and natural resource management.
How did the scientists do this animation?
The animation was produced from multiple ECHIDNA scans at a field site in the Sierra National Forest in California, USA. Every point in the animation shows where a laser beam was intercepted and reflected by objects in the forest. The ECHIDNA instrument records the location and distance to each reflection, enabling its precise location in 3D space to be calculated. Importantly, the intensity of the reflected energy can also be used to differentiate ground, foliage and tree stems. To produce the animation, PhD student Xiaoyuan Yang from Boston University combined ECHIDNA data from five scan locations over a 1 hectare area.
What are the holes in the ground?
This is where the instrument was sitting on the ground. The 'hole' indicates a blind spot.