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Weighing trees with lasers

NERC grant success for Mat Disney

Weighing trees with lasers

Dr. Mat Disney was successful in the January 2015 Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funding round with his proposal, ‘Weighing trees with lasers: uncertainty in tropical forest biomass and allometry’.

The grant, for £630,000, will allow Mat and his team to take their terrestrial laser scanner to forests across the tropics, in Malaysia, Peru, Brazil and Gabon, measuring large tropical trees. The project builds on his ongoing work using laser scanner measurements to estimate the volume and mass of trees in a new way.

Estimating how much carbon is stored in tropical forests is a difficult but important measurement, since this represents a large sink (store) of atmospheric CO2. Current estimates rely on empirical models which can be highly uncertain. Mat's approach provides an accurate, independent estimate of tree carbon, as well as other significant information on tree canopy height and structure.

The new grant will enable Mat to extend his measurements to many more locations, for thousands more trees, and help reduce uncertainty about tropical forest carbon stocks.

Less than 10% of proposals reviewed by NERC are currently funded, but this proposal received a 9/10 for excellence.

See Mat's laser scanner blog for more information:


Image; Terrestrial laser scan of UCL Geography MSc students in the UCL quad, in the shadow of the lime trees, with the Chadwick Building in the background. The colour represents the intensity of the reflected laser pulses - from black (no return), through blue, to red for the highest energy returns.


Image: see below. Photo (c) M. Disney

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