"Unveiling tropical forest structure and function at scale" by Dr Greg Asner

Past Event

12 November 2012, 6:15pm - 7:45pm


This lecture is hosted by the Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests, an Oxford Martin School Centre

Summary: Following four billion years of evolution on Earth, the most biologically diverse biome to have arisen on land is the great swath of tropical forest straddling the equator, which inspires the naturalist in millions of people planet-wide. Yet ironically, tropical forests continue to undergo enormous losses and untold biotic rearrangements in patterns and rates that defy current scientific inquiry and conservation initiatives. It is also ironic that most of our understanding of tropical forest composition, structure and function comes from very sparsely distributed field plots, whilst our understanding of tropical deforestation is gleaned from myopic satellite remote sensing metrics of forest cover. There exists a persistent, and increasingly problematic, void in our understanding of tropical forest dynamics at the scale in which organisms disperse, reproduce, migrate and go extinct.

To address this problem, Dr Asner developed the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, or CAO (http://cao.stanford.edu). The CAO is designed to assist in the measurement and interpretation of organismic-scale processes that mediate forest carbon dynamics, disturbance regimes, biosphere-atmosphere interactions, and evolutionary processes across large tropical regions. In June 2011, they launched CAO AToMS, the next generation technology in a unique line of advanced airborne measurement systems. Inaugural campaigns with AToMS were recently completed, including mapping in the Western Amazon, Mesoamerica, and Southern Africa. Here Dr Asner presents a brief history of the CAO program and some new insights derived from its unique observations. He also sheds light on how 3D laser-guided spectroscopic imaging of ecosystems can transform scientific knowledge, inspire artistic expression and communication, and accelerate both conservation actions and climate-change policy initiatives.

Speaker: Dr Greg Asner, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science, USA and Professor in the Department of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University

Biography: Dr Greg Asner is a faculty member in the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology and a Professor in the Department of Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford University. His scientific background spans the fields of evolutionary biology, ecosystems ecology, biogeochemistry, and remote sensing. Dr Asner’s research interests range from global deforestation rates to the evolution of chemical compounds in tropical forest canopies. He also seeks practical ways to reduce biodiversity losses through international climate agreements and emerging carbon markets. The aircraft and satellite mapping techniques developed by Dr Asner and his team are widely recognized as among the most innovative for exploring and monitoring the Earth's changing ecosystems.

This lecture will be followed by drinks.