Friday, 10 March 2017
Last week saw 70 researchers from around the world attend a two-day meeting at the Royal Society’s country venue, Chicheley Hall, in Northamptonshire, to discuss “The Terrestrial Laser Scanning Revolution in Forest Ecology”. The meeting, organised by Mark Danson, was a Theo Murphy Scientific Meeting funded by The Royal Society and featured a star line-up of keynote presentations by researchers from around the world, with associated discussion and poster sessions. The speakers were drawn from the UK, US, Germany, Finland, Australia, China and Switzerland with other participants representing a further five countries.
Terrestrial laser scanners, or TLS for short, provide detailed three-dimensional measurements of forests, by firing millions of laser pulses up into the canopy. The information recorded can then be used to monitor changes in forest structure and biomass with unprecedented accuracy. These measurements are set to revolutionize the way in which ecologists measure forests, and will help determine whether forests are acting as carbon sinks, absorbing excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, or carbon sources, adding to the greenhouse effect.The meeting discussed the technology, applications and challenges of using TLS in forest ecology and showed how it is essential to improve the accuracy of measurements of the biomass of forests so as to better quantify the storage of carbon in such ecosystems. TLS devices can do this by ‘weighing trees with lasers’ based on three-dimensional reconstructions of complete forests. The dynamic nature of forest growth was another important theme with Professor Danson describing how a new TLS device, the Salford Advanced Laser Canopy Analyser, or SALCA for short, can be used to map the growth and fall of leaves in UK woodlands. Outputs from the meeting will include a special issue of the Royal Society’s in-house journal Interface Focus which will be edited by Professor Danson and his colleagues from the Universities of Newcastle, University College London