My Project in Plain English
Identifying Forest Health from the Sky
The assessment of forest canopy health is essential to the monitoring of ecological sustainability in managed forests. These forests are crucial for wood and paper production in South Africa, being managed by large companies like Mondi, Sappi and others. Forest anomalies are often caused by trees dying from factors such as disease, strong wind, damage by animals, lightning and fire. The aim of my project is to look at these anomalies using airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data. The latter is collected by a LiDAR scanner mounted on an airplane. The scanner emits light at infrared wavelengths, travels through the air and hits features on the earth's surface. From each feature a backscattered pulse is measured and that provides a 3D point (see the example image).
I have chosen the Cecilia and Tokai Forests, the only two plantations situated in Cape Town, as my study area as these areas are close for fieldwork and are covered in the City of Cape Town municipality's LiDAR datasets. There is also a debate around whether these plantations need to be cut down and be replaced by indigenous fynbos which originally covered the area. Final results are available as a blog post with findings and figures.