Remote Sensing

Remotely sensed data of land cover has been a primary tool for ecologists, biologists, and geographers whom work in forested ecosystems. The ABERG team contains several extremely skilled researchers specializing in the remote sensing of tropical Andean forests. Sassan Saatchi of JPL/NASA, Yadvinder Malhi of Oxford, Miles Silman of Wake Forest, and Greg Asner of the Carnegie Institute are the primary researchers interested in remotely sensed data, although all members of ABERG are interested in working on remote sensing projects.

Vegetation Structure

One major interest of the ABERG team regards discerning forest structure along the elevational gradient that the Andes provide. Insights into three dimensional forest structure provide important details regarding tree height and biomass, forest structure and function, as well as information on arboreal species, particularly birds and primates. Ongoing work with aerial LiDAR datasets and planned fly-overs will help provide some of the first research on tropical Andean rainforest and cloud forest to be integrated with long-term tree plot data.


Forest phenology yields clues as to the productivity and life cycle of flowering trees. Due to the difficulty in observing forest canopies from above, portable remote sensing systems provide ways to routinely observe flowering patterns. ABERG researchers Miles Silman and David Lutz have begun working on this issue within the Peruvian Andes.

Disturbance and Treeline

Conservation actions in the tropical Andes must incorporate the effects of climate change and disturbance, both natural in the form of landslides, and anthropogenic in the forms of fire and grazing by cattle. Remotely sensed data provide long-term data sets of historical disturbance in the Andes and ABERG researchers are utilizing these collections to document land use change trends. Of the ABERG group, Przemyslaw Zelazowski has been investigating treeline using moderate resolution imagery to detect regional patterns, David Lutz has been using historical aerial photography and high resolution contemporary imagery to look at long-term treeline change, Imma Oliveras has been focusing on the detection of fire at high elevations, and Kathryn Clark has been using Quickbird imagery to  map the occurrence of landslides near Manu Park.