NASA Creates Unique Map Showing Height of Earth's Forests
Accurate measurements of the height of Earth's forests can improve global efforts to monitor how much carbon they contain, while benefitting studies of forest biodiversity.

A group of scientists from NASA and the University of Maryland have created a unique map that shows the heights of the earth's forests.

The map, supposedly an accurate and high-resolution reading, has been created using 2.5 million carefully screened and globally distributed laser pulse measurements sent from space.

The data was collected from the Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) instrument, in 2005, using the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System on NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (Icesat).

In addition, the researchers also relied on information from NASA's Terra satellite, Nasa's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and the WorldClim database.

The basic results of the study seem to indicate forests were taller in the tropics and boreal forests, whereas they were shorter in mountainous regions.

According to the scientists, this map will help them understand the role forests play in climate change and how their heights influence wildlife habitats, while also helping them quantify the carbon stored in earth's vegetation.

"Knowing the height of earth's forests is critical to estimating their biomass, or the amount of carbon they contain," said Marc Simard, a researcher from NASA.

"Our map can be used to improve global efforts to monitor carbon. In addition, forest height is an integral characteristic of earth's habitats, yet is poorly measured globally, so our results will also benefit studies of the varieties of life that are found in particular parts of the forest or habitats," he added.