Not all forests are created equal. The massive green swaths of Peru’s Andean and Amazonian forests host a more diverse array of life than previously thought — much of which has been hidden beyond the visible spectrum of light until now.
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In August 2011, I climbed onto a small twin-propeller plane, crouching down to avoid smacking my head. The plane took off from Cusco, Peru, and was soon soaring over the Amazon rainforest. From the window, I could see a vast, unbroken layer of trees, greeting the horizon in every direction. It all looked the same—but it wasn’t. That seemingly uniform stretch of jungle contained many distinctive types of forest, each with its own distinctive climate and species. To the naked eye, the boundaries between these zones are invisible. We literally can’t see the forests for the trees.
Sometimes for a scientist, the disconnected pieces of years of research come together in a single, “really awesome” point in time.
Since its inception in 2006, CAO has produced interesting data art for numerous scientific journals. Making the December 2016 cover of Ecological Applications, this image shows CAO’s Visible-to-Shortwave Infrared (VSWIR) imaging spectrometer data over a reforested landscape in Panama. Different colors indicate differences in growth rates among tropical trees.
Talk about seeing the forest for the trees: an ecologist said that he has found the world’s 50 tallest tropical trees.
How can you tell if an avocado’s gone bad just by looking at it? By examining it through a hyperspectral (HS) camera. These devices – also known as imaging spectrometers – see things the human eye cannot by scanning the world across multiple channels of light. Where humans see three wavelengths in the colour spectrum (red, green and blue), hyperspectral sensors can detect as many as 480.
A few months ago, it was announced that there was a new record for the world’s tallest tropical tree: a Yellow Meranti (Shorea faguetiana) found in Sabah, one of the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, that stands some 89.5 metres (about 294 feet) tall.
From a freezing hotel ballroom in Kota Kinabalu, an exciting announcement was made about the sweltering tropical forests in the Heart of Borneo, in an area on the interior of Southeast Asia that straddles the borders of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. Using laser-scanning technology known as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), Greg Asner of Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution for Science revealed that his team had identified 50 new trees that break the previous record for the world’s tallest tropical tree announced earlier this year.
Amazon forests conjure visions of lush canopies, not giant branches crashing to the ground. But according to a recent study, published in Environmental Research Letters, dead branches frequently fall from the tops of trees in the Amazon, releasing a startling amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Across the state of California, millions of trees are dying each year—but it’s not from old age. The ongoing drought is causing extreme water stress in many forests, which paradoxically leads trees to release pheromones that attract another threat: bark beetles. According to forest ecologist Christina Restaino, water stress also cuts the trees’ ability to produce sap, a first-line defense against beetles.