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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Laser Forestry

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, May 6, 2019/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, sustainability, environment, adventure , climate change


                            Amazon Deforestation, Rondonia Brazil 1984-2016  (credit: EarthTime)

NASA has a new environmental initiative that is now operational. The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation, or GEDI for short, was launched in December 2018 and installed on the International Space Station. GEDI carries a laser-based, LiDAR scanner that is beginning to monitor the Earth's forests. LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, is a powerful tool that allows surveys to gather landscape-scale data revealing previously unknown details.

Like the wise teacher Yoda in Star Wars, GEDI will use the power of LiDAR mapping to gain deep insights into the condition of global forests. With tropical deforestation being a critical ecological matter to Amazon rainforests, in Southeast Asia, and also Africa, the three dimensional GEDI maps will determine where deforestation is most active, can reforestation be undertaken, and the situation of undisturbed forests elsewhere.

Tropical Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change as CO2 is released CO2 from clearing and burning the once tree-covered lands. The World Carfree Network (WCN) estimates that carbon pollution produced from burning forests may contribute more CO2 (15%) per year than all the world's cars and trucks combined (14%). Such estimates do not include any determination of the losses to species diversity or other ecosystem functions. Restoring denuded landscapes could offer the potential to make major reductions in atmospheric carbon through photosynthesis that requires CO2 for all plant growth.

The space agency has produced a short video explaining the goals of the new GEDI program.

NASA will produce and publicize the LiDAR maps as they are being gathered. Whether they will be used to reverse deforestation and restore forests is completely different issue.



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