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Remote sensing instruments compared in Queensland

Mat Disney and Andy Burt in forest biomass experiments

Remote sensing instruments compared in Queensland

Dr. Mat Disney and PhD student Andy Burt were in Brisbane in late July to participate in an international field experiment comparing various laser scanning instruments (lidar) for measuring forest properties using remote sensing

The project, organised with various colleagues by John Armston from the Queensland State Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts (DSITIA:, arose from an increasing interest in these instruments for forest research.

An international group of researchers, part of a larger group interested in the laser scanning of vegetation (Terrestrial Laser Scanning International Interest Group or TLSIIG: see, visited various forest plots in and around Brisbane with laser scanning instruments to capture 3D canopy scans from the same points for each instrument. This was the first time these new instruments had been compared systematically to test their different capabilities, including some with unique dual wavelength lasers.

New models and tools are being developed to apply the resulting information, in particular to estimate forest biomass (stored carbon). This is an important indicator of how forests respond to changing climate, fire, management, etc. Lidar measurements are showing real promise for augmenting and improving existing forest measurement methods, as well as allowing measurements to be scaled up to compare with satellite observations.

The previous week, Andy attended the annual International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (IGARSS) conference, held this year in Melbourne (, to present new work on reconstructing 3D forest structure from lidar scans. Supervised by Mat. Disney, this is being undertaken in collaboration with colleagues from Finland, Australia and the Netherlands. Andy is now off to Gabon in W. Africa to try out the first laser scanning experiments of this sort in tropical forests. More on this when he returns!

For an ABC news story on the field experiment, see:

Click here to read Mat Disney's blog entry 'Shining a light on forest structure in Brisbane, Australia' on the UCL Geography Blog.


Andy Burt overseeing a laser scan of a forest plot

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