NASA’s GEDI Mission Releases Breakthrough Forest Biomass-Carbon Product

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Siuslaw National Forest

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Scenic view from Siuslaw National Forest, OR. Credit: USGS

< period class ="glossaryLink" aria-describedby ="tt" data-cmtooltip ="<div class=glossaryItemTitle>NASA</div><div class=glossaryItemBody>Established in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. It&#039;s vision is &quot;To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.&quot;</div>" data-gt-translate-attributes="[{" attribute="">NASA’s GEDI mission has reached a major milestone with the release of its newest data product, which provides the first near-global estimate of aboveground forest biomass and the carbon it stores – filling a key gap in climate research.

The data enables research into how Earth’s forests are changing, what role they play in mitigating climate change, and the regional and global impacts of planting and cutting down trees.

With the new data product from GEDI, the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation, ecosystem and climate researchers can quickly locate their regions of interest and study forest structure and carbon content with greater precision than in the past.

The new biomass product release comes as GEDI is within a one-year mission extension and represents the culmination of critical advancements in spaceborne lidar (a type of laser) research.

Counting carbon in Earth’s forests

GEDI is a high-resolution lidar instrument designed specifically to measure vegetation. From its vantage point aboard the International Space Station, GEDI rapidly bounces laser pulses off the trees and shrubs below to create detailed 3D maps of forests and land formations. The resulting data product, processed and gridded at a 1-km (0.39-square mile) resolution, allows researchers to study questions about forest ecosystems, animal habitats, carbon content, and climate change.

In its first three years in orbit, GEDI has captured billions of measurements between 51.6 degrees north and south latitudes (approximately the latitudes of London and the Falkland Islands, respectively).

The new data product combines data from GEDI with airborne and ground-based lidars to construct a global biomass map that reveals the amount of vegetation contained in an area.

“One big area of uncertainty is that we don’t know how much carbon is stored in the Earth’s forests,” said Ralph Dubayah, GEDI’s principal investigator and a professor of geographical sciences at the University of Maryland. Trees pull carbon from the atmosphere to fuel their growth. But scientists need to know how much carbon forests store so they can predict how much will be released by deforestation or wildfires. Approximately half of plant biomass is composed of carbon.

The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) is a full-waveform lidar instrument that produces in-depth observations of the three-dimensional structure of the Earth’s surface area. GEDI exactly determines forest canopy height, canopy vertical structure, and surface area elevation which improves our understanding of worldwide carbon and water cycle procedures, biodiversity, and environment. Credit: NASA

GEDI’s brand-new item is not the very first worldwide biomass item, however it is the very first to consist of well-described unpredictability for its price quotes utilizing sophisticated analytical designs. This implies GEDI’s biomass price quotes likewise feature a sense of how precise those measurements are. “That is, for each 1-kilometer estimate of average biomass, the mission knows how confident that estimate is,” Dubayah stated.

The GEDI group has actually compared their outcomes to forest stocks from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis information, and discovered that GEDI’s biomass approximates compared positively to both. Cases where the GEDI item varied from the stocks highlight chances for more research study and calibration.

“We can apply this framework to estimate biomass for entire countries – for example, many countries in the pan-tropical regions don’t have national forest inventories,” stated John Armston, GEDI’s lead for recognition and calibration and an associate research study teacher at the University ofMaryland “Now we have the means to provide an estimate of aboveground biomass with known uncertainty that can be used to support climate reporting and a broad range of applications.”

In numerous nations of the world, Armston stated, there is huge interest in utilizing GEDI to analyze forest and forest meanings for carbon tracking, however likewise to identify environment structure for biodiversity evaluations.

“Resolving the structure of different forest and woodland ecosystems with much more certainty will benefit, not only carbon stock estimation, but also our understanding of their ecological condition and the impact of different land management practices,” he stated.

Laying a structure for future objectives

The group will continue to improve its biomass approximates moving forward, and has actually extended the objective to January 2023, offering time to gather much more information. Additionally, the International Space Station just recently changed its orbit from 262 miles (421 kilometers) above Earth’s surface area to about 258 miles (417 kilometers). The lower orbit will enable GEDI to have more consistent protection, implying less spaces in its information from east to west, offering the objective a more total view of Earth’s temperate and tropical forests.

“With GEDI being able to collect data all the way to 2023, we’re getting closer to collecting data at the same time as the next generation of lidar and radar missions – like NISAR (NASA-ISRO SAR, launching in 2024),” stated Laura Duncanson, an assistant teacher at the University of Maryland and among GEDI’s research study researchers. “Eventually, the best products won’t just be based on GEDI, but on a combination of satellite data sources.”