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Analyzing Yosemite’s Forests Health With LiDAR Data

Analyzing Yosemite’s forests health with LiDAR data

Assessing the condition of Yosemite’s forests is important to understand things such as how much carbon they store. This can be done by using data gathered with laser-based technology (LiDAR). Climate change affects many green forest areas and it also brings unprecedented challenges to Yosemite’s forests. Luckily, LiDAR data offers an opportunity for resource managers to expand their understanding of current forest conditions, and to explore ways to boost ecosystem resilience. 

LiDAR for forest studying

LiDAR, known as light detection and ranging or as a hybrid of light and radar,  is a method used to measure distance by using remote sensors that emit and record laser pulses. When it comes to studying forests, airborne LiDAR systems are very useful. They can create elevation profiles, map the upper levels of leaves and branches that form canopies, identify dead trees and measure carbon storage.

Yosemite-based research

The Yosemite staff along with the University of Washington researchers have paired up to analyze parkwide LiDAR data collected with support from a prior Conservancy-funded grant, with a focus on forests. This research is part of the Southern Sierra All-lands Restoration and Resilience Program (SSARR), in an effort to study and restore landscape and watershed health in the Sierra Nevada. Analyzing the LiDAR data will allow insights and tools that will help teams evaluate how well a particular forested area could withstand fire or drought; identify potential habitats for threatened wildlife, or find hazardous trees that could pose a threat to visitors or structures.

Yosemite community members have supported and helped park researchers work on turning an expansive collection of LiDAR measurements into a detailed portrait of the forest’s landscapes. This research has been critical in restoration, protection, and climate change efforts. At ACI we also utilize airborne LiDAR, surveying data on all types of terrain, whether flat, wavy, or mountainous with or without vegetation, can be acquired. Contact us for any concerns.

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