The potential to characterize ecological data with terrestrial laser scanning in Harvard Forest, MA

Contemporary terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) is being used widely in forest ecology applications to examine ecosystem properties at increasing spatial and temporal scales. Harvard Forest (HF) in Petersham, MA, USA, is a long-term ecological research (LTER) site, a National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) location and contains a 35 ha plot which is part of Smithsonian Institution's Forest Global Earth Observatory (ForestGEO). The combination of long-term field plots, eddy flux towers and the detailed past historical records has made HF very appealing for a variety of remote sensing studies. Terrestrial laser scanners, including three pioneering research instruments: the Echidna Validation Instrument, the Dual-Wavelength Echidna Lidar and the Compact Biomass Lidar, have already been used both independently and in conjunction with airborne laser scanning data and forest census data to characterize forest dynamics. TLS approaches include three-dimensional reconstructions of a plot over time, establishing the impact of ice storm damage on forest canopy structure, and characterizing eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) canopy health affected by an invasive insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae). Efforts such as those deployed at HF are demonstrating the power of TLS as a tool for monitoring ecological dynamics, identifying emerging forest health issues, measuring forest biomass and capturing ecological data relevant to other disciplines. This paper highlights various aspects of the ForestGEO plot that are important to current TLS work, the potential for exchange between forest ecology and TLS, and emphasizes the strength of combining TLS data with long-term ecological field data to create emerging opportunities for scientific study.

D.A. Orwig, P. Boucher, I. Paynter, E. Saenz, Z. Li, and C. Schaaf
Interface Focus
Harvard Forest