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The terrestrial laser scanning revolution in forest ecology

Mat Disney co-organises Royal Society and NSF meetings

The terrestrial laser scanning revolution in forest ecology

Dr Mat Disney was co-organiser of a Royal Society-funded meeting "The terrestrial laser scanning revolution in forest ecology ", held at the Royal Society's secluded and elegant 18th Century Grade I listed Chicheley Hall, in Buckinghamshire, on 27-28 February 2017.

The meeting, led by Professor Mark Danson (University of Salford), with other co-organisers Professor Crystal Schaaf (University of Massachusetts) and Dr. Rachel Gaulton (University of Newcastle), brought together around 80 scientists from all over the world, from ecology, biology, computer science, remote sensing and forestry, to discuss how terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) is providing a totally new way of looking at forests.

TLS is attracting great interest across many areas of science, conservation and policy, particularly to understand how trees develop and adapt their form and function, and respond to climate and man-made changes. It also reveals how forests are subtle aggregations of individual tree and collective structural and ecological properties.

TLS is also providing measurements to test new ecological theories and open up new ways to monitor forests from space and ground. This is potentially vital in supporting policy frameworks, such as the UNFCCC REDD+ agreement on preserving tropical forests according to their carbon storage capacity.

Finally, TLS is providing new and often beautiful ways to visualise environments. Check out Mat's blog on his work in the tropics, at Kew, and even just around the corner from UCL (

Following the Chicheley meeting, many participants came to UCL Geography on 1st March, as part of a US National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Research Coordination Network (RCN) meeting on terrestrial laser scanning.

Led by Professor Alan Strahler (Boston University), a long-time collaborator with Mat and Professor Philip Lewis (UCL Geography), the TLS RCN is a forum to facilitate collaborative research developing new TLS models and algorithms, field experiments and techniques, and applications.

The TLS RCN has around 80 active members in over 20 countries, including team members from the NASA Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) and the ESA BIOMASS RADAR spaceborne missions.

Both missions will launch in the next 2 years and attempt to estimate forest biomass and structure across the globe, with Mat working with both teams using TLS to improve the satellite retrieval of forest biomass.

The Royal Society and RCN meetings showed how lasers really are opening our eyes to new ways of looking at the world's forests.




See also:



TLS scans in Russell Square (Phil Wilkes)

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