Laser scanning forest carbon

Airborne laser scanning (ALS) and hyperspectral imaging provide a new perspective on ecological dynamics, allowing us to track both the demography of individual trees and properties of the canopy over vast areas.  We are using this technology to understand the impacts of logging, deforestation and forest conversion to oil palm as well as to identify how gradients of environmental factors can influence forest structure.  There are also applications within forest dynamics, through use of novel techniques for plant species identification and forest biodiversity estimation from imaging data, and applications within carbon sequestration through aboveground biomass estimation.

Forest Biodiversity 

We are interested in modelling plant distributions and patterns of species diversity. As georeferenced information from herbaria and museums become more accessible through data portals such as GBIF, we are using species distribution models to predict species richness and diversity patterns at multiple scales. Additionally, we study how global changes such as invasive species, climate warming, eutrophication, and habitat fragmentation are affecting forest biodiversity and how species distributions are changing.

How forest are responding to global change

Our group seeks to describe and quantify processes such as mortality, regeneration and species interactions, and how they change over time and across the landscape. A clear understanding of forest dynamics is necessary if these forest resources and biodiversity are to be managed and protected effectively, especially in the face of global change.  We combine several different approaches and methods within remote sensing and groundwork to better study forest dynamics. In parallel, the datasets these methods produce are being used to develop new, more accurate and comprehensive predictive models of forest dynamics.

What types of interventions work in conservation?

We are investigating the social and environmental performance of a suite of interventions aimed at reversing trends in forest loss. The climate change agreement brokered at COP21 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, and signed by over 200 nations, attests to the interest in global environmental change. Translating these political pledges and policies into forest and landscape management that provides environmental and social benefits poses significant challenges. Crucially, the research team is quantifying performance across a typology of forest conservation interventions – from those that aim to conserve via regulation, to those that focus on agricultural intensification. The research is testing the emerging idea that conservation objectives are likely to be met when interventions explicitly recognise the need to link forest protection with efforts to improve farm-based production, so that people’s needs are met alongside a slowdown in deforestation.  The interdisciplinary research brings together expertise across the departments of Geography, Plant Sciences and Zoology, and is funded by the Frank Jackson Foundation.