Ural Federal University: Drones Can Help Assess Forest Conditions in Sverdlovsk Region

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Specialists of the Ural-Carbon Polygon, with the financial support of the Ministry of Science and Education of Russia, purchased new equipment such as drones at a cost of 5 million rubles each. Two industrial drones will help assess the condition of forests in the Sverdlovsk Region: the number and quality of trees, vegetation, potential carbon stock and other parameters.

“Each drone is equipped with two attachments such as a lidar (laser radar) and a multispectral camera. Lidar transmits a three-dimensional image of the surface, and can be used to determine the height of trees, bushes, and assess the density of vegetation. Multispectral camera provides assessment of vegetation condition, amount of green photosynthetic mass able to retain carbon. For this purpose the camera has five lenses that have different spectra: two bands in the red part of the spectrum, green, blue and infrared. This allows correct tracking of vegetation color spectra and estimating the amount of preserved greenery even in the fall, for example,” explains Konstantin Gribanov, a Leading Researcher at the UrFU Climate and Environmental Physics Laboratory.

The findings of the multispectral data and laser scanning will be studied by specialists from the Ural State Forest Engineering University and UrFU. It will compare data from drones and from satellites, as well as from ground-based measuring devices. The correlation of all indicators will allow to build mathematical models to estimate carbon deposition by woody vegetation both in the carbon polygon, and in further work on arbitrary parts of forest ecosystems in the Russian Federation. With their help, scientists will estimate how much carbon can be absorbed by vegetation in a particular area.

“This technological part is very important for future practical applications. Especially in the creation of a carbon farm, which could be an artificially created forest plantation, where the annual growth of the phytomass of woody vegetation will need to be estimated in order to improve the accuracy of the quantification of the carbon deposited by it. Comparing annual data from a high-tech drone will help provide information on tree plant height. Knowing the patterns of change in the phytomass of trees with age, we will be able to quantify the annual increase in carbon stock in the forest plantation and, accordingly, calculate the carbon units (the equivalent of one ton of carbon dioxide) produced by such a carbon farm,” says Valery Fomin, Vice Rector for Research and Innovation at Ural State Forest Engineering University

In addition, a mast for measuring fluxes using the turbulent pulsation method – (CT-S3T series steel mast, Li-Cor equipment) is being installed at the carbon site, which will also help scientists estimate CO2 fluxes over the ecosystem of the carbon site around the Kourovka Astronomical Observatory.

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