Ever find yourself daydreaming about the distribution of carbon in our planet’s tropical forests? Researchers at the Woods Hole Research Center, led by Alessandro Baccini, collected data on the structural particulars of tropical forests using LIDAR (light detection and radar) technology over the course of two years. The result is a satisfyingly detailed, interactive map of the band of earth found between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, that uses a color scale to represent a given area’s above-ground biomass, the density and complexity of the entire vertical range of these tropical forests. This data in turn indicates where in these regions carbon is best stored, and in what quantities. Their map is the most precise report developed of its kind, beating out a similar map created last year by NASA.
Aside from being a fun thing to peruse and guess at, the biomass map has a very good shot at influencing international policy regarding the preservation and cultivation of these forests and the carbon that they contain. The New York Times highlights the implications this new data has for the United Nations’ REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degredation in Developing Countries) program, in that it would allow us to hone in on the areas of forest that most require our attention (or inattention, as the case may be). The Indonesian government has already expressed interest in using the maps to better protect their forests from the negative effects of the palm oil industry, for example.
And while we’re on the subject of tropical forests, a quick aside that might be worth perusing on your lunch break: Google Street View has now officially conquered the Amazon!