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Mapping forests’ carbon with lasers

Measuring carbon emissions is crucial for planning a response to climate change. But scientists have so far struggled to keep track of the world’s carbon stocks and how they vary.
“We want to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and put it into forests as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” says Greg Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science based at Stanford University, United States.
At the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, he has developed a lidar (light detection and ranging) system based on laser technology that is flown over the tropics to measure how much carbon is trapped in the forests, and where deforestation, illegal logging and mining activities are releasing it.
This video shows what pilots can see from above the forest, and how the system turns aerial imagery into colourful, animated carbon maps.
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