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The terrestrial laser scanning revolution in forest ecology

Royal Society to support international meeting

The terrestrial laser scanning revolution in forest ecology

UCL Geography's Dr Mat Disney is co-organiser of a successful bid to the Royal Society to fund a meeting of top international researchers using terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) in studies of forest ecology.

The proposal, to the Theo Murphy Fund, was led by Professor Mark Danson, University of Salford, with other co-organisers Professor Crystal Schaaf, University of Massachusetts, Boston, and Dr. Rachel Gaulton, University of Newcastle.

The meeting will be held at the Royal Society’s Buckinghamshire Chicheley Hall in February 2017, bringing together leading scientists to discuss the fascinating insights TLS is providing in forest ecology.

As an example, Mat and his group, with international collaborators, have shown how TLS can be used to measure tropical forest biomass. TLS also offers the possibility of measuring the size and shape of tree crowns and branches, the amount of leaf area in the canopy and how this varies with height.

Such parameters are key indicators of forest function, growth history and response to climate change, but have generally been very hard to measure. TLS can quite readily derive these properties, and has attracted a good deal of attention from forest ecologists. Mat's blog has more examples of this work:

  See also:

 Weighing trees with lasers:

 Chicheley Hall:



An example of a TLS point cloud collected from the Oriental Plane tree, one of the oldest trees in the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew at more than 250 years (

The view is coloured by height, so we are effectively looking up through the tree trunk, as captured by the laser scanner. The image illustrates the analogy between a tree branching network and other biological, neural networks. This is part of work by Mat with Kew researchers on the health of some of the oldest 'Icon' trees in Kew.


Inside the Oriental Plane: See below

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Mat Disney