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Laser technology and modeling tools for precision forest inventory, monitoring, and planning

Date: April 15, 2015


Background

Example of high-resolution LiDar data of canopy heights.
Example of high-resolution LiDar data of canopy heights.
Airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology uses lasers mounted on aircraft to image the 3-D structure of trees and other objects on the ground. The unprecedented detail of LiDAR data makes it tremendously useful for forest inventory mapping, including mapping forest biomass. Sound forest policy and management decisions to mitigate rising atmospheric CO2 depend upon accurate methodologies to quantify forest carbon pools and fluxes over large tracts of land.

RMRS Research Forester Andrew Hudak and others are developing relationships between LiDAR estimates and traditional forestry measures collected on the ground to develop maps of forest biomass and predict changes over time. Hudak and his partners used two LiDAR surveys of Moscow Mountain—a 20,000 ha (50,000 acre) actively managed forest landscape in northern Idaho—to map forest biomass in 2003 and 2009. They calculated forest biomass change over the 6-year period, and used the climate-sensitive version of the Forest Vegetation Simulator (Climate-FVS) developed by RMRS Operations Research Analyst Nicholas Crookston to simulate expected effects of climate change on forest productivity over the next 100 years. Managers can benefit from this precise, spatially explicit information for forest planning as climate changes into the future.

Aboveground live carbon projected in 2110 across the Moscow Mountain study area under predictions from three different climate change models and under no climate change (Gálvez et al. 2014).
Aboveground live carbon projected in 2110 across the Moscow Mountain study area under predictions from three different climate change models and under no climate change (Gálvez et al. 2014).

Key Findings

  • Repeat LiDAR surveys are useful for accurately quantifying high resolution, spatially explicit biomass and carbon dynamics in conifer forests.

  • Harvesting activity from 2003 to 2009 removed more carbon from the Moscow Mountain landscape than was gained through forest growth.

  • Change in aboveground biomass was related to forest successional status; younger stands gained two- to three-fold less biomass than did more mature stands.

  • Even the most mature forest stands are valuable carbon sinks, implying that longer harvest rotation cycles are likely to favor higher levels of aboveground carbon storage in mixed conifer forests of Moscow Mountain.

  • Simulations suggest that Moscow Mountain might experience alarming declines in forest productivity in the future due to decreased tree growth and increased tree mortality induced by climate change.

  • Decisions about which conifer species to plant following timber harvests can affect long-term carbon sequestration due to variation in growth rates. This study found that Pinus monticola has the highest capacity to sequester carbon, followed by Pinus ponderosa, then Pseudotsuga menziesii, and lastly Larix occidentalis.

 

Featured Publications

Galvez, Fabian B. ; Hudak, Andrew T. ; Byrne, John C. ; Crookston, Nicholas L. ; Keefe, Robert F. , 2014
Hudak, Andrew T. ; Strand, Eva K. ; Vierling, Lee A. ; Byrne, John C. ; Eitel, Jan U. H. ; Martinuzzi, Sebastian ; Falkowski, Michael J. , 2012


Principal Investigators: 
Principal Investigators - External: 
Fabián B Gálvez - Rocky Mountain Research Station
Forest Service Partners: 
John C. Byrne - Rocky Mountain Research Station
Nicholas L Crookston - Rocky Mountain Research Station
External Partners: 
Eva K. Strand - University of Idaho
Lee A. Vierling - University of Idaho
Jan U.H. Eitel - University of Idaho
Robert F Keefe - University of Idaho
Sebastián Martinuzzi - University of Wisconsin, Madison
Michael J. Falkowski - Michigan Technological University