Research Highlights - Panamanian Biomass
Barro Colorado Island (BCI), a 1500 hectare island in the Panama Canal, is the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's (STRI) premiere site for the study of lowland humid tropical forests. The Carnegie Airborne Observatory took a few hours of flight time in October 2009 to collect detailed hyperspectral-LiDAR observations sufficient for a study of the island landscape and geomorphological features in relation to the tropical forest structure and carbon storage.
While processing the BCI data, Carnegie and STRI collaborators uncovered previously unknown variation in forest canopy 3-D structure and biomass. One of the major findings was an increase in the island's forest biomass along erosional surfaces that supply rock-derived nutrients such as phosphorus and calcium to the vegetation.
Current studies are examining canopy 3-D architecture, light penetration, and the establishment of plants in the forest canopy understory. In 2011, the new CAO-2 system with the AToMS sensor will be based in Panama. This will enable unprecedented access to data collection in the unexplored reaches of Mesoamerica, the Guyana Shield countries, and the Amazon basin.