GeoWorld April 2012

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NEWSLINK NASA-Led Team Produces Global Map for Forest also benefit studies of the varieties of life that are found in particular parts of the forest or habitats." Available online at, the map Height A team of scientists working under leadership from NASA developed a high-resolution map that depicts the height of forests on the planet—a tool that should help researchers better understand the role of forests in climate change. The map data also should help scientists understand how forest height can influence wildlife habitats and help quantify carbon stored in vegetation. The forest map involved scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); the University of Maryland, College Park; and Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Mass. The team created the map using 2.5 million globally distributed laser-pulse mea- surements taken from space. These light detection and ranging (LIDAR) data were collected in 2005 from an instrument aboard NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat). Researchers augmented ICESat with other data types to compensate for the sparse LIDAR data, due to the effects of topography and cloud cover. "Knowing the height of Earth's forests is critical to estimating their biomass, or the amount of carbon they contain," said JPL's Marc Simard, lead researcher for the project. "Our map can be used to improve global efforts to monitor carbon. In addition, forest height is an integral characteristic of Earth's habitats, yet it's poorly measured globally, so our results will depicts the highest points in a forest's canopy, has a spatial resolution of 0.6 miles and was validated against data from a network of about 70 ground sites worldwide. Using map data, researchers found that forest heights tend to decrease at higher elevations, and they're tallest at low latitudes—forests generally decrease in height the farther they are from the trop- ics. Researchers found one exception, however, in the southern temperate rainforests of Australia and New Zealand, around 40 degrees south latitude. In this part of the world, stands of eucalyptus, one of the world's tallest flowering plants, can grow higher than 130 feet. "Our map contains one of the best descriptions of the height of Earth's forests currently available at regional and global scales," added Simard. "This study demonstrates the tremendous potential that spaceborne LIDAR holds for revealing new information about Earth's forests. However, to monitor the long- term health of Earth's forests and other ecosystems, new Earth-observing satellites will be needed." U.K. Council Getting Smart about Green Spaces A desire to maximize the benefits of green spaces in urban areas prompted local governments such as the Carlisle City Council in Northwest England to turn to tree-mapping tools. The city's heightened emphasis on managing green spaces comes in wake of a 2011 United Kingdom (U.K.) government white paper, "The Natural Choice: Securing the Value of Nature." Produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the paper outlines the government's environmental vision for the next 50 years, highlighting the economic benefits that come with urban green spaces—includ- ing an estimated value of £300 per person per year attributed to living within view of green space. For Carlisle's part, the city turned to a digital tree- Produced through a NASA-led effort, a global map depicts forest heights, giving researchers better tools for understanding forest habitats and their role in the carbon cycle. 6 GEO W ORLD / AP R I L 2O12 map layer created by Bluesky, a U.K.-based firm spe- cializing in aerial imaging and remote-sensing data collection and processing. Carlisle City Council is using the data product, ProximiTREE, to map existing trees, highlight areas where additional planting may be required, identify possible risks posed by trees and help determine an inspection regime. Mobility/GPS Special Issue NASA

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