Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

NASA, Partner Space Agencies Measure Forests In Gabon
by Staff Writers
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Feb 26, 2016

The two NASA AFriSAR research aircraft: the B-200 airplane (left) carries a laser altimeter, while the C-20A aircraft (right) transports a radar. Both instruments collect measurements of surface topography and vegetation structure, creating 3D maps of their targets. Image courtesy NASA. For a larger version of this image please go here. Watch a video on the research here.

A contingent of NASA airborne instruments and scientists on the ground has joined colleagues from space agencies in Gabon and Europe this month to study the dense African tropical forests in Gabon.

Gabon, a Central African country slightly smaller than the state of Colorado, is home to one of the most pristine rainforests on the planet. During the two-week-long NASA campaign, a collaboration with a European Space Agency (ESA) mission called AfriSAR, researchers are collecting measurements of plant mass, distribution of trees, shrubs and ground cover, and diversity of plant and animal species - not only from Gabon's rainforest but also from the country's wetlands, mangrove forests and savanna.

ESA launched the first part of the AfriSAR field campaign in Gabon in July 2015, when teams led by the French national aerospace research center collected radar and field measurements of the country's forests. Now NASA and the German space agency have joined the second leg of the campaign.

The data will help prepare for and calibrate four current and upcoming spaceborne missions for NASA, ESA and the German space agency that aim to, among other goals, better gauge the role of forests in Earth's carbon cycle.

"One of the questions we're really interested in at NASA is balancing the global carbon budget," said Lola Fatoyinbo, a research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead of NASA's contribution to the AfriSAR campaign.

"We know how much carbon dioxide is being emitted into the atmosphere by fossil fuel emissions, but we don't have a good estimate of how much carbon is being taken up from the atmosphere and where it's stored - we think that forests absorb about a quarter of all these emissions, but we need better studies of forest biomass to confirm this."

"With AfriSAR, we're getting very accurate measurements of the 3D structure of an ecosystem that is representative of the larger Congo Basin rainforest and of tropical forests in general, and this is going to allow us to get a better grip on how much carbon is stored in these ecosystems," Fatoyinbo said.

Gabon's forest is part of the Congolian tropical forests, altogether the second largest rainforest in the world after the Amazon. About 85 percent of the country's land is forest: only about 1.5 million people live there.

"The forests in Gabon are special: they are rich in plants and animals, but empty of people and intact in most places," said Sassan Saatchi, a senior scientist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. He is part of the NASA AfriSAR team that operates the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR). The other NASA group participating in AfriSAR, led by Goddard scientist Bryan Blair, is in charge of the Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor (LVIS) instrument.

During the AfriSAR campaign, UAVSAR flies 40,000 feet high mounted beneath a C-20A aircraft from NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. LVIS flies at 28,000 feet onboard a B-200 airplane from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Both instruments collect measurements of surface topography and vegetation structure by sending out rapid pulses of either radio waves (UAVSAR) or laser light (LVIS) toward their targets. They then calculate the distance to objects below by measuring how long it takes for the signal to bounce back, creating 3D maps of the surface beneath.

"LVIS studies the vertical structure of the forests by measuring the elevation of everything the photons hit: the top of the canopy, all of the leaves and branches and finally the ground" said Blair, principal investigator and developer of LVIS.

"In tropical forests, the challenge is to get the laser pulse all the way to the ground because the whole canopy is closed; there's very few holes for the photons to get through."

The data collected by LVIS will help calibrate and validate the information gathered by UAVSAR over the same targets, and vice-versa. The two datasets will also be compared to the airborne radar measurements that ESA and the German space agency are compiling during their current campaigns in Gabon. Finally, AfriSAR's ground teams from Goddard and JPL are performing several types of field measurements, such as tree width, forest structure and soil moisture, which will complement and refine the data gathered from the air.

Both NASA airborne instruments are test beds for future space missions. LVIS is the precursor to the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation lidar (GEDI), a powerful laser altimeter that will be installed on the International Space Station in the near future to measure forests in 3D.

UAVSAR will help develop the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar, or NISAR, a joint U.S. and Indian radar-based satellite mission set to launch in 2020. In turn, the European space agencies' radar measurements in Gabon are aimed to prepare for ESA's BIOMASS satellite mission, which will deploy in 2020. The German space agency will also compare the data to the measurements collected by its TanDEM-X satellite constellation, launched in 2010.

Furthermore, the forest data gathered in Gabon might help to inform policymakers working on climate mitigation and forest conservation policies, Saatchi said.

AfriSAR is NASA's first collaboration with Gabon's young space agency, AGEOS, and also its first large international campaign in Africa since NASA participated in a hydrological study of the Sahel in the early 1990s.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Earth at NASA
Forestry News - Global and Local News, Science and Application

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Increasing drought threatens almost all US forests
Washington DC (SPX) Feb 23, 2016
Forests nationwide are feeling the heat from increasing drought and climate change, according to a new study by scientists from 14 research institutions. "Over the last two decades, warming temperatures and variable precipitation have increased the severity of forest droughts across much of the continental United States," said James Clark, lead author of the study and an environmental scie ... read more

Brazil police charge seven in Samarco mine deaths: reports

More Austrian troops to deal with migrant inflow

Taiwan vows new safety laws after quake disaster

Contested waters in NATO's new Aegean migrant mission

Real or virtual - can we tell the difference

Breakthrough in dynamically variable negative stiffness structures

Study shows dried plums provide protection from bone loss due to radiation

Russian Space Intelligence Center to Receive New Radars

Intense deep-ocean turbulence in equatorial Pacific could help drive global circulation

Sea level rise in 20th century was fastest in 3,000 years, Rutgers-led study finds

Barrier Reef at greater risk than thought: study

Sea-level rise past and future: Robust estimates for coastal planners

OGC requests information to guide Arctic Spatial Data Pilot

Study of tundra soil demonstrates vulnerability of ecosystem to climate warming

Ice age blob of warm ocean water discovered south of Greenland

Australian icebreaker runs aground in Antarctica

New wheat genetic advancements aimed at yield enhancement

PM tells drought-stricken Thailand to cut rice production

Time of day can impact spray

Chinese buyer for Australia's largest dairy farm business

Fiji cyclone death toll rises to 42: official

Cyclone death toll hits 29 as Fiji eyes long clean-up

Christchurch commemorates devastating quake

Death toll rises as Fiji cleans up after 'strongest ever' cyclone

Voice of China: Beijing seeks African friends and influence

Kenya army says it killed Shebab intelligence chief

Three soldiers get life for I.Coast military chief's murder

Saving the wildlife 'miracle' of Congo's Garamba park

Easter Island not destroyed by war, analysis of 'spear points' shows

Neanderthals and modern H. sapiens crossbred over 100,000 years ago

Neanderthals mated with modern humans much earlier than previously thought

Modern 'Indiana Jones' on mission to save antiquities

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement