Case Study: The Carnegie Airborne Observatory

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The Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) is an airplane containing advanced spectroscopic technology and was developed by Greg Asner. The goal of the CAO is to manage ecosystems using their mapping technology. They are also trying to figure out different ways to organize species in the canopies of rainforests depending on the chemical and spectroscopic traits of leaves. The CAO consists of a visible to short-wave infrared (VSWIR) spectrometer, LiDAR technology, and the Airborne Taxonomic Mapping System (AToMS). All of these technologies assist in obtaining colored 3-D images of tropical forests that can represent and distinguish between a variety of variables such as biomass, density, vegetation, heights of trees/canopies, concentrations of specific elements, and the overall chemical make-up of forests. The colored images can…show more content…
For example, the Kruger National Park in South Africa is a protected area especially for the elephant population. The CAO team was able to use LiDAR sensors to image large areas and analyze treefall rates and patterns. An increase in elephant density leads to an increase in the treefall rate. Asner and his team were able to share these findings with park officials so that conservation strategies could be improved to manage the increasing elephant population while also maintaining the ecosystems functionality.
The technology in the CAO is also able to digitally remove certain components from images such as trees and entire canopies. This provides a detailed image of the ground level of rainforests. One example of this application is when the CAO team discovered illegal gold mining in Peru. By eliminating the canopies from the images, the CAO team was able to analyze the ground level of the rainforest where the illegal mining was taking place. This is another example of how the technology can be used to preserve the

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