Scott Goetz, deputy director of the Woods Hole Research Center, and his colleagues with the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) team have, after many years of effort, acquired NASA support to fly a Light Detection and Ranging System (LiDAR) sensor in space.
The laser instrument will be placed on the International Space Station (ISS) to monitor global forests, including tree height, biomass, canopy architecture and cover. The GEDI team will also assess the implications of climate change on forests and the feedbacks of forest change resulting from natural causes, such as hurricanes, and human-induced causes like deforestation.
According to Dr. Goetz, “GEDI will be a major advance in mapping and monitoring forest dynamics. The data sets produced will have tremendous value for society as well as international policies on climate change and biodiversity.... Soon we’ll have reference baselines against which we can compare change over the next decade or more. This is long overdue.”
The GEDI team, led by Ralph Dubayah of the University of Maryland, was awarded $94 million from NASA over a five-year period to develop, operate and produce global data sets from the LiDAR system. The team expects the LiDAR system to be installed on the space station by 2019.
This award represents a deepening commitment by the United States to understand the role of terrestrial carbon dynamics on climate.