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Amazon Rainforest Mapped With Laser Beams

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Amazon Rainforest Mapped With Laser Beams By Carnegie Airborne Observatory
Amazon Rainforest Mapped With Laser Beams By Carnegie Airborne Observatory

Luscious green is the colour usually associated with the Amazon rainforest. Now the lungs of the Earth have been captured in amazing never-before-seen psychedelic colour by a new process of airborne laser beam mapping by The Carnegie Airborne Observatory.

Each magnificent colour in the laser beam scans represents the chemical make-up of the different species of trees that make up the forest.

TreeHugger reports that the wide range of colours in the CAO images show, photosynthetic pigment, water and micronutrients in the plants below.

The psychedelic scans of the world's largest tropical rainforest and river basin, are generated by combining 3D spectroscopic and laser imaging with new and unique approaches to scientific study.

Greg Asner, the scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science who set up the project, told The Huffington Post via email:

"The purpose is to develop the first large-scale yet high-resolution assessments of biological diversity in the western Amazon, from the humid lowlands to treeline in the Andes.

We are also mapping how much carbon is contained in these forests, and finally we are looking at whether the 2010 mega-drought had an impact on forest health, mortality, and productivity."

The CAO aims to explore ecosystems on a large scale, and is spending 2012 mapping the Amazon, with plenty more of these amazing images to come.

The machinery used is called AToMS (Airborne Taxonomic Mapping System) and integrates a new High Fidelity Visible-Shortwave Imaging Spectrometer (VSWIR) measuring the 380-2510 nm wavelength range at 5 nm spectral resolution with a dual-laser, waveform Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) system, and high-resolution Visible-to-Near Infrared (VNIR) imaging spectrometer.

Asner added: "The methods are very new, and do not exist in any other circle – scientific or other. We’ve built a revolutionary technology, matched it with our unique scientific and exploration approaches, and are coming up with new information that has been unavailable from the ground or from satellites."

The WWF says that the Amazon rainforest contains 1.4 billion acres of dense forest, or half of the planet’s remaining tropical forests. It holds 4,100 miles of river, and is the source of almost one-fifth of all free-flowing fresh water on Earth.

Asner adores the rainforest he maps, saying: "I’ve spent the bulk of my career in and above tropical forests, and this is definitely the most exciting time for my team and me. To say it is pure scientific exploration, of the kind that awakens the deepest sense of curiosity and desire to understand something new, is an understatement."

The Amazon rainforest is also home to significant gold reserves, which contribute to deforestation in the region. Several gold mines can be seen in the images as areas of single colour, while the forested areas are multi-hued.

See the mapping project in action above, and the still shots generated by the fly-over below.

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