When the Economist publishes an article entitled “Lidartector” with a subtitle of “How to tell if countries are cheating on their conservation commitments” I think it is fair to say that LiDAR technology has arrived.
The Economist reports that, “Until a few years ago, assessing the amount of plant matter in a forest in a cheap and accurate manner seemed an insurmountable problem, according to Eric Dinerstein, chief scientist of the World Wide Fund for Nature, a conservation group that is also involved in the Nepalese lidar project.”
The goal of the project, which should be completed by 2014, is to allow Nepal to participate in international carbon-trading schemes which pay poor countries with lots of trees not to cut them down. The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) scheme agreed at the United Nations’ climate-change conference in Cancún last December may eventually be worth $30 billion a year. Nepal wants a slice of that. Lidar monitoring may provide a way of making sure it is delivering on its side of the bargain.
After many years of remote sensing research it appears that the forestry profession finally has the tool they have been looking for.