Use of Lidar in Environmental Science

Adrian Harpold

in Environmental Science

ISBN: 9780199363445
Published online October 2015 | | DOI:
Use of Lidar in Environmental Science

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Light detection and ranging (lidar) is a technology that allows construction of three-dimensional surfaces. Lidar systems emit energy, usually in the near-infrared wavelength, and measure the travel time before receiving that energy back at a sensor, thus allowing discrete (individual points) or continuous (full waveform) representation of the land surface structure. Depending on the application, lidar allows simultaneous measurement of topography, aboveground vegetation, human infrastructure, and snow/ice at landscape scales (>1000 km2) and fine resolutions (<10 cm). Lidar measurement units can be mounted on aerial platforms (often referred to as airborne laser scanning [ALS] or airborne laser swath mapping [ALSM]), terrestrial platforms (terrestrial laser scanning [TLS]), and space-borne platforms. Flexibility in application platforms, rapid advancements in instrument technology, and fusion with other remote sensing technologies (e.g. hyperspectral imaging) and ground observations has made lidar technology attractive for a variety of research applications. Specifically, the concomitant measurement of the geosphere, ecosphere, and hydrosphere is revolutionizing our ability to answer foundational, interdisciplinary questions in the Earth sciences. Lidar is being applied to characterize extreme geomorphic events as well as landscape evolution and soil development in response to biotic and climatic forcings. The characterization of vegetation structure and species identification is advancing forest and rangeland resource management, carbon estimation, and habitat characterization. Water penetrating lidar systems allow mapping of bathymetry and investigations into aquatic habitat. Lidar has numerous applications within cryospheric science, ranging from seasonal snowpack characterization to glaciology and sea ice. Similarly, lidar offers multiple avenues to advance hydrological science through our understanding of surface water hydraulics, process and feature identification, and quantifying interactions between the land surface and atmosphere. Although lidar technology has been available commercially since the 1990s, many of the important advancements related to environmental science have occurred since 2005. The references cited in this article focus on a diversity of applications using lidar in environmental science and the reader should note a technical background might be necessary to understand many of these topics. Introductory material found in the general overviews can serve as a foundation for the more detailed applications described later.

Article.  10635 words. 

Subjects: Environment ; Environmental Science, Engineering, and Technology ; Environmental Science

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