Forests are an integral part of our everyday environment. They provide a habitat for wildlife, a shade from the sun, and the wood and pulp for our paper and houses. With 50% of the mass of a tree being composed of Carbon, they also store a considerable volume of this element that forms a critical component of the greenhouse gasses of Methane (CH4) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2). Characterizing the structure and mass of a forest is therefore an important part for improving our knowledge of the trajectory of the Earth's climate, as well as providing a means for better understanding the interaction between man's interaction with the forest and its impact on the animal residents who already live there.
L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar images of the Harvard Forest region collected by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) ALOS/PALSAR instrument, a Digital Elevation Model collected by NASA's Space Shuttle Topography Mission (SRTM), and lidar-measured tree heights from NASA's Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS). Shown are a variety of data products available from the instruments, among them the polarimetry (top portion), the DEM (central magenta region), differential interferometry (large, background image) and the LVIS tree heights (central yellow region). Data such as the variety shown here is being used to determine the structure of the forest, and hence to provide estimates of its carbon content as well as to characterize species habitats. The central dark region is a large body of water in Western Massachusetts known as the Quabbin Reservoir, which provides Eastern Massachusetts with much of its drinking water.
This work has been funded through NASA's Terrestrial Ecology program, and supported, in part, through JAXA's Kyoto and Carbon Cycle Initiative.