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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  2017  /  January 2017  /  Understanding tropical tree architecture

Understanding tropical tree architecture

New NERC award for Mat Disney

Understanding tropical tree architecture

Dr. Mat Disney has been successful in the latest round of Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Standard Grant funding, announced in early January 2017.

Mat has been awarded £250K as part of a new 3 year project called Understanding tree architecture, form and function in the tropics, led by Professor Yadvinder Malhi from Oxford University, with partners in the USA, Peru, Brazil and Ghana.

Mat and Yadvinder have already worked together, using Mat's terrestrial laser scanner to measure the size, structure and biomass stored in tropical forests in Ghana and elsewhere.

The new project will focus on using lidar measurements to test fundamental and hotly-debated hypotheses about the relationship between the size and shape of tropical trees and their function - how they capture and convert light, water and nutrients into new leaf and wood, reproduce, etc.

Theoretical approaches have attempted to explain the complex interactions between tree form, environment and evolutionary history, but have generally foundered on a lack of structural measurements of large trees.

This is where the lidar comes in. The project will build on Mat's ongoing work scanning tropical forests, with the team visiting other sites across S.E. Asia, South  America and Africa to scan individual trees and measure their physiology, to throw some (laser) light on these fascinating problems.



Top: Laser scanner data for a plot in Ankasa, Ghana, from an ESA-funded field project, 2016. Bottom: The same trees, converted into 3D structural models to estimate trunk and branch sizes, tree mass, crown size and shape etc.

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