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Viewing ecosystems from above

New technology and global observations have improved resource-management decision making from disaster detection and mitigation of fires, insect outbreaks, storms, and floods, to agricultural management and basic ecological research, says Dennis Ojima (Colorado State University).

Our first views of Earth from space remind us that the planet is an integrated system of organisms, water, land, and atmosphere. These views have helped scientists observe Earth across continents, through oceans, and gain a better understanding of ecological systems at multiple levels. In symposium 9, to be held at the Ecological Society of America Annual meeting, scientists will discuss current research practices involving remote sensing (use of satellites, airplanes, and other distance-related technologies).

Technology Michael Lefsky (Colorado State University) will open the symposium with a talk about the use of airborne and satellite-based laser technologies (lidar). Lidar instruments directly sense vertical structure by recording the echo from laser pulses reflecting off vegetation and ground surfaces.

Satellites provide synoptic views with the potential to make repeat observations. Yet the technology, according to Susan Ustin (University of California, Davis), is limited by todays spatial and spectral resolutions and their fixed overpass schedules, often limiting the use of satellite data for ecological studies. In her presentation, Ustin will provide insight on the uses of and instruments available for aircraft observations. According to her, high fidelity imaging spectroscopy and small footprint lidar, are two new technologies that provide essential information needed to characterize landscape dynamics. She will discuss the types of landscapes that are measurable using those instruments and examine how ecosystem functions related to biogeochemical cycling and landscape dynamics can be quantified.

Gregory Asner (Carnegie Institution)
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Contact: Annie Drinkard
annie@esa.org
Ecological Society of America
7-Aug-2007


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