• Quantifying Forest Vertical Structure Using Spaceborne Lidar: A GEOBON Essential Biodiversity Variable Application in Colombia
PI / Institution Patrick Jantz / SICCS, Northern Arizona University
Start Date December 26, 2017
End Date December 25, 2020
  • Summary

    More comprehensive mapping of earth’s biodiversity is a priority to help prevent further biotic impoverishment and maintain ecosystem functions and services. Intergovernmental organizations, national governments, and non-governmental organizations have
    developed numerous approaches to map and monitor biodiversity priorities and to report on status and trends in biodiversity. The Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON), a flagship GEO program, has been at the forefront of efforts to coordinate and deliver this biodiversity information to national governments, researchers, and other groups with an interest in conserving biodiversity. The Essential Biodiversity Variable framework (EBV) and the BON in a Box tool are two of GEO BON’s primary vehicles for organizing and delivering technical information to its participants.
    In addition to global efforts, GEO BON facilitates national and regional BONs. Colombia, with oversight from the Colombian Ministry of Environment and assistance from GEO BON, is currently developing its national framework for biodiversity observations. Colombia’s Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt (IAvH), a non-regulatory, government research institute, is primarily responsible for developing the framework. IAvH is making progress on multiple fronts, including development of the BioModelos application which informs the Species Populations EBV. However, development of a habitat structure EBV is still needed and would make a valuable addition to Colombia’s national biodiversity observation framework.  
    Habitat structure is one of six EBV classes defined in the EBV framework and has been highlighted as a priority for mapping from space. Although earth observations have greatly increased our understanding of earth’s ecosystems over the past several decades, especially the horizontal distribution of forests and other major vegetation types, we still lack precise measurements of vertical habitat structure and its distribution for large areas.  
    Lidar data from NASA’s Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI), which is currently underway, will significantly enhance habitat structure information available for large fractions of the earth’s forests. Because of its sampling density (~15 billion samples over its two year lifespan) and footprint size (~25 m diameter), it will do so with high precision and at scales commensurate with in-situ biodiversity observations and moderate resolution optical sensors such as Landsat and Sentinel. Thus, GEDI can serve as a foundation for global and national level habitat structure EBVs. To build on Colombia’s active involvement in GEO BON and leverage new habitat structure information provided by GEDI, we propose to develop a cutting edge, lidar based habitat structure metric as a GEO BON Essential Biodiversity Variable (EBV) application. Our primary objectives are to:
    1) Develop a consistent and scalable workflow that uses spaceborne lidar measurements to provide high precision estimates of the extent and distribution of forest structural types, establishing baselines for subnational, national and international biodiversity targets and reporting requirements.
    2) Work with IAvH to incorporate EBV data and workflows into Colombia’s biodiversity observation framework.
    The proposed work will contribute to the GEO work plan by supporting the efforts of GEO BON to leverage earth observations for development and implementation of a forest structure EBV that describes and quantifies forest vertical structure across ecosystems.