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New NASA probe will study earth’s forests in 3D

A laser-based instrument being developed for the International Space Station will provide a unique 3D view of Earth’s forests, helping to fill in missing information about their role in the carbon cycle.

Called the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation Lidar (GEDI), the instrument will be the first to systematically probe the depths of the forests from space. The system is one of two instrument proposals recently selected for NASA’s Earth Venture Instrument program and is being led by the University of Maryland, College Park.

By revealing the 3D architecture of forests in unprecedented detail, GEDI will provide crucial information about the impact that trees have on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Although it is well-established that trees absorb carbon and store it long-term, scientists have not quantified exactly how much carbon forests contain. As a result, it’s not possible to determine how much carbon would be released if a forest were destroyed, nor how well emissions could be countered by planting new trees.

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Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

 

Posted Date: October 9, 2014

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