The coronavirus pandemic has forced everyone, including forest scientists, to learn new routines both on and off duty. Hallway conversations now take place outdoors while riding a bike, people’s offices are scattered all across Finland, and all research visits abroad have been postponed to the future. Physical meetings have been replaced by virtual ones.
Yet, this hasn’t affected scientists’ passion for doing research.
“We want to work for a future where we understand forest ecosystem function so well that we can live in harmony with our environment in living and experience-rich societies,” Associate Professor Mikko Vastaranta says.
“This vision calls for sustainable use of natural resources, putting a stop to biodiversity depletion, and finding new business models. We also need societal structures that support equality, we need to manage climate change, and overall, we need a clean environment.”
This autumn, Vastaranta will launch a new research project that uses remote sensing to study wood density variation both within and between trees. With new technologies, scientists now have access to highly detailed information on trees. The project is being co-led by Research Professor Antero Kukko from the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute at the National Land Survey of Finland.
“Wood density measurements play a crucial role in the assessment of forest resources. This information is needed when refining wood and selecting an optimal target for its use as well as in the estimation of true carbon sequestration. Besides the species and genetics, wood density is also affected by tree growth and by various environmental and competition factors,” Vastaranta explains.
Thanks to laser scanning time series, these factors can now be observed in a new way. Trees can be monitored for changes in their stem shape, height growth and crown development. Scientists have already found preliminary links between crown properties and wood density.
“Novel sensors and algorithms make the measurement process highly automated. Of course, we haven’t gotten to the time series data just yet, but based on existing theories, we should expect to find completely new things.”