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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Deep Ecology

Peering under the forest for the environment below.

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Friday, April 26, 2013/Categories: natural history, sustainability, environment

Ecology can be observed at small or large scale. Each approach provides different kinds of critical information. Studies of a species dynamics such as why Monarch butterfly populations are declining, or measuring multiple compounds flowing through an entire estuary to measure changing chemistry, require two very different approaches. They both try to answer why an ecosystem either functions properly or is out of balance.

To answer a question like what is the primary environmental influence on a big landscape, you often need to look beyond the forest to see under the trees. Remote sensing can peer deeply into such environmental factors. Using radar instead of visible light for satellite photographs, allows clouds and tree cover to be penetrated and shows what exists underneath. The photos can be taken irrespective of season or weather. Here's one example from the Peruvian Amazon showing flooded forests (yellow-radar) hidden under dense tropical forests when seen in normal/visible light.

          
Napo River, normal-visible light (JPL)                          Napo River, radar-yellow/blue wavelength (JPL)

Resulting maps can be compared with targeted ground observations. The remote scanning tools can cover wetlands, rivers, and waterlogged landscapes anywhere and can also provide rapid assessments for better development or conservation planning. This is where deep ecology gets really useful.

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