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Jun. 17, 2011

Gauging the girth of greenhouse gas gulpers

by Neil Wagner

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LIDAR: It’s part laser, part radar, ALL awesome. Especially when it comes to figuring out just how much capacity forests have to soak up all that pesky carbon dioxide we’re spewing into the atmosphere.

LIght Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) is a lot like RADAR, but employs a laser in lieu of radio waves. Using LIDAR, Carnegie Institution tropical ecologist Gregory Asner, and his team, survey forests from a plane to establish a 3-D model of the trees.

Asner’s work can help facilitate a program known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). Approved at last December’s UN-sponsored climate conference in Cancún, Mexico, REDD looks for rich countries to fund forest preservation in poor ones, since that may be a cheaper alternative to the wealthier countries reducing their own carbon emissions. Successful implementation of the program relies on a good assessment of forests’ CO2 storage capacity and LIDAR could make that happen.

People who will not sustain trees will soon live in a world which cannot sustain people.
—Bryce Nelson

More info from National Geographic

Gregory Asner talks about a LIDAR project in Hawaii

The Asner Lab page

LIDAR FAQ’s from LSU. OK?

Greg Asner was nice enough to send me some additional links related to this blog:
From Nature.com: This article about his work includes a cool LIDAR image
Stay informed about his team’s efforts

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Interview: Katie Kline, Communications Officer at Ecological Society of America interviewed me via Skype for the ESA’s Ecotone blog. Read and hear it here.

Video: Bebbo and Kito were featured in one of Jim Parks’ terrific Today’s Green Minute episodes. See the video! Learn more about it.

About Neil Wagner

Neil Wagner's What on Earth? comic strip uses humor to discuss global warming.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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