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Individual Highlight

LiDAR: A Bird’s-Eye Look at Wildlife Habitat

Photo of LiDAR-derived map of canopy cover for the Bartlett Experimental Forest and surrounding area. Values are a percentage; the dark blue colors are 100 percent canopy closure. Coeli M Hoover, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.LiDAR-derived map of canopy cover for the Bartlett Experimental Forest and surrounding area. Values are a percentage; the dark blue colors are 100 percent canopy closure. Coeli M Hoover, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : Wildlife species often prefer habitats with specific characteristics. For example, many birds need dense brushy areas where they can safely nest, feed young, complete their growth, and prepare for migration. LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, data give us a bird’s-eye view at the landscape level to help locate areas that might meet the habitat needs of species of concern to managers.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Hoover, CoeliYamasaki, Mariko
Costello, Christine 
Research Location : Bartlett Experimental Forest, White Mountain National Forest
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1075

Summary

LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing tool that allows us to measure the height of vegetation using a laser in an airplane. As the airplane flies over the forest, the laser beam shoots toward the ground, and the light is reflected back from the ground and from vegetation. Scientists can use this data to make detailed maps of the ground surface as well as the height and structure of the vegetation. Scientists can then analyze these maps in a geographic information system to identify areas on the landscape that meet certain criteria. For example, scientists can map areas where the trees are over 100 feet tall, or where tree canopy is mostly open, or where there are dense areas of shrubs, or any combination of characteristics. This helps managers identify areas that might meet the habitat needs of specific species without the requirement to do expensive large-scale searches on the ground. Work currently underway on the White Mountain National Forest has been focused on using LiDAR data to identify areas of potential early successional habitat (young brushy forest) important to many bird species as well as moose and snowshoe hare.