Wednesday, April 12, 2017 11:40 am–12:00 pm
Forest ecosystems are a complex mosaic of diverse plant and tree species, location and distribution of which are driven by a number of gradients like climate (ex. temperature, precipitation regimes), topography (ex. elevation, slope, aspect), geology (ex. soil types, textures, depth), hydrology (ex. drainage, moisture availability) etc. Diverse combinations of these gradients support diverse composition and distribution of vegetation which in turn supports an array of wildlife. Understanding the vegetation canopy structure is critical to understand, monitor and manage the complex forest ecosystems like the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP). Vegetation canopies not only help understand the vegetation, but are also a critically important habitat characteristics of many threatened and endangered animal and bird species that GSMNP is home to . Using airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) we characterize the three-dimensional structure of the vegetation in the GSMNP at 30 m resolution. Rich high resolution LiDAR data allows understanding of three-dimensional structure and distribution of various forest types within the GSMNP. Distributed across a vast topographic gradient, data provides in-depth understanding of climatic and physiographic controls on vegetation growth and distribution across the diverse tree species within the park.