Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mapping The Boreal Forest

Date:
October 29, 2008
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
How best to map 'boreal' or northern forest with space-borne radar is the focus of an ESA campaign currently underway in northern Sweden. Covering about 15% of the Earth’s land surface, boreal forest plays an important role in the global cycling of energy, carbon and water.

A boreal forest stand within the Krycklan site in northern Sweden. Boreal forest covers about 15% of the Earth’s land surface. The boreal region forms a circumpolar band throughout the northern hemisphere, extending through Russia, Northern Europe, Canada and Alaska. The great expanse and large amount of carbon contained in vegetation and soils (particularly peat) make the boreal biome the world's largest terrestrial carbon reservoir.
Credit: ESA

How best to map ‘boreal’ or northern forest with spaceborne radar is the focus of an ESA campaign currently underway in northern Sweden. By answering this question, the campaign addresses one of the key objectives of the candidate Earth Explorer BIOMASS mission.

BIOMASS is one of six candidate Earth Explorer missions that has just completed assessment study and will be presented to the science community at a User Consultation Meeting in January 2009. Up to three of the missions will subsequently be selected for the next stage of development (feasibility study), leading to the eventual implementation of ESA’s seventh Earth Explorer mission.  

Covering about 15% of the Earth’s land surface, boreal forest plays an important role in the global cycling of energy, carbon and water. The boreal region forms a circumpolar band throughout the northern hemisphere that extends through Russia, northern Europe, Canada and Alaska. The great expanse and large quantity of carbon contained in vegetation and soil make the boreal biome the world's largest terrestrial carbon reservoir.

Since forest biomass is half carbon, the BIOMASS mission, if selected, is expected to greatly improve our knowledge of how much carbon is being stored, where it is being stored and better quantify carbon fluxes between land and the atmosphere – important for understanding more about the global carbon cycle and climate change.

To achieve this goal, the mission will exploit the longest radar wavelength available for satellites observing the Earth from space – P-band. This wavelength is uniquely sensitive to mapping biomass from space. Malcolm Davidson, Head of ESA’s Campaign Unit explains, "The BioSAR 2008 campaign represents the first-ever ESA airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) campaign over northern boreal forest. Because of the importance of boreal forests for the BIOMASS mission, and the global carbon cycle in general, highly accurate and robust methods for transforming the P-band radar signals into forest biomass maps are required. By collecting airborne SAR measurements at P-Band over boreal forest and comparing these to extensive measurements made on the ground we can ensure that the satellite mission will accurately map forest biomass across this unique biome."

The campaign is being conducted in the air by DLR’s (German Aerospace Center) Microwaves and Radar Institute using the E-SAR (Experimental Synthetic Aperture Radar) instrument. Ground measurements are also taken of essential forest characteristics such as biomass, forest height and ground conditions by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Umeε (SLU) supported by the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) and Sweden’s Chalmers University. In addition, forest height measurements of the entire test site were made this summer using a sophisticated helicopter-based laser scanning system.

Measuring forest properties on the ground can be hard work especially when you also have to deal with mosquitoes, the harsh northern climate and rugged terrain. However, more than 300 plots within the forest were measured during the summer by SLU. This ground-based data is currently being compiled and formatted for analysis.

"We are very pleased that the Krycklan test site was selected for the campaign," says Johan Fransson from SLU. "It provides us with an excellent opportunity to conduct a large-scale inventory of forest properties in our research site and complements parallel efforts being made in our department to develop new methods for assessing and mapping forest resources using remote sensing. We expect to learn a lot from this campaign."

One interesting and unique feature of boreal forests is that, due to the harsh climate, they grow very slowly compared to temperate and tropical forests. As Lars Ulander from FOI and Chalmers University points out, "When entering some of the forest stands in the test site with larger trees, it is impressive to think how old these trees are. Some forest stands are more than 100 years old – so that biomass in such cases is the result of 100 years of growth."

Beyond the immediate needs of the BIOMASS mission, the interest in the campaigns is expected to be enormous, as a complete remote sensing dataset and simultaneously acquired ground data are rare. Once the activity has been completed, the dataset will be made available to the wider scientific community through ESA.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Mapping The Boreal Forest." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081020120131.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2008, October 29). Mapping The Boreal Forest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081020120131.htm
European Space Agency. "Mapping The Boreal Forest." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081020120131.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ocean Drones Making Waves in Research World

Ocean Drones Making Waves in Research World

AP (Apr. 21, 2014) — Two California companies are developing unmanned watercraft to study the ocean. The ocean drones can stay at sea for months to gather scientific data, patrol borders and protect endangered reefs. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) — Operators of recreational businesses on western reservoirs worry that ongoing drought concerns will keep boaters and other visitors from flocking to the popular summer attractions. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) — Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) — Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins