Drone mapping of forest ecosystems in Ghana

Published on
March 17, 2016

In the first two weeks of March, a team of drone and lidar experts of Wageningen University visited Ghana to map ecosystem carbon cycling and plant traits of the tropical forests. The campaign was organized together with the group of Yadvinder Malhi of the University of Oxford.

Constant monitoring of tropical forests is important to increase our knowledge on effects of climate change. However, mapping aspects like forest structure, degradation and deforestation is time-consuming and expensive. Innovative high-tech approaches like Terrestrial Lidar Scanning (TLS) and Hyperspectral Sensing from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) may revolutionize the way we monitor our forests.

Harm Bartholomeus and Juha Suomalainen of the Unmanned Aerial Remote Sensing Facility (UARSF) were involved in the Ghana campaign to investigate the use innovative technologies for mapping the plant traits of tropical forest. In this approach, UAV based sensing is allowing for multi-scale observations and filling the gap between ground based sampling and satellite based observations. The Hyperspectral Mapping System (HYMSY) observes both the forest structural information, which can be derived from the 3D point cloud data (see figure below), and the biochemistry of the tree canopy which can be characterized from the hyperspectral data cube.

Example of HYMSY image: RGB orthophoto @50mm ||| Green-Red NDVI @ 50mm ||| DSM @150mm
Example of HYMSY image: RGB orthophoto @50mm ||| Green-Red NDVI @ 50mm ||| DSM @150mm

Travels in ecosystem science