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Researchers develop biosphere mapping capability

US: Researchers from the Carnegie Institution are rolling out results from the new Airborne Taxonomic Mapping System, or AToMS, for the first time at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meetings in San Francisco. The groundbreaking technology and its scientific observations are uncovering a previously invisible ecological world.

AToMS, which launched in June 2011, uniquely combines laser and spectral imaging instrumentation onboard a twin-engine aircraft to derive simultaneous measurements of an ecosystem”s chemistry, structure, biomass, and biodiversity. AToMS includes a unique imaging spectrometer implemented by Carnegie scientists in close collaboration with engineers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In its inaugural year of operation, AToMS mapped tens of millions of acres of ecosystems in California, Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon basin. New results presented at AGU have applications ranging from mitigating climate change to forest conservation and ecosystem management.

“The real power of what we are doing is that every image from AToMS yields a discovery that feels like looking into the universe for the first time,” Asner said. “AToMS consistently reveals something we didn”t know, and often many things we had never considered.”

One AGU report led by Asner assessed the impacts of the 2010 mega-drought in the Amazon basin on the forest”s structure, carbon stocks and biodiversity. Because the frequency of Amazonian droughts is predicted to increase in the future, understanding how the 2010 drought changed the forest is critically important to predicting the future of the region. Using the Carnegie Airborne Observatory”s (CAO) AToMS system, Asner and his team revealed huge areas of drought-stressed vegetation in the Amazon, finding previously unknown impacts ranging in scale from individual branches to whole canopies among millions of rainforest trees.

Source: Science Daily