Its latest space probe will provide the most accurate assessment yet of how much carbon is stored in the world’s forests. Its unique 3D view of forests will give scientists a better understanding of their role in the carbon cycle and how to increase effectiveness of climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts (how about if we just stop cutting the world’s forests?).
Estimates are that forests are absorbing 25% of carbon emissions. "Lidar has the unique ability to peer into the tree canopy to precisely measure the height and internal structure of the forest at the fine scale required to accurately estimate their carbon content."
Scientists will also get a much more accurate read on how much carbon is released when forests come down and how much carbon can be removed from the atmosphere by restoring forests.
"One of the most poorly quantified components of the carbon cycle is the net balance between forest disturbance and regrowth," says Ralph Dubayah, at the University of Maryland, which is leading the project.
One recent study concludes that atmospheric carbon levels would fall by 20% if deforestation in the tropics ceased.
NASA’s Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation lidar – the first to monitor forests from space – should be operating at the International Space Station by 2018.
Read our article, Nowhere To Hide From Global Forest Watch.