Laser Technology and TruPulse 360 Help Measure the Receding North Woods

by mphippen 22. October 2013 14:33

I was pleasantly surprised to see LTI's TruPulse 360 laser rangefinder featured in an article by Josephine Marcotty posted in last Sunday's Minneapolis’s Star Tribune. She writes about a significant undertaking by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to anticipate the effects of ‘global warning’ on one of the state's best assets, The Great North Woods.

TruPulse 360 Laser Rangefinder

As the world's glaciers continue to recede at an alarming rate, so does the Great North Woods in northern Minnesota. Marcotty points out that the boundaries have already pushed northward some 70 miles over the last 50 years, and scientists are predicting the ancient forest will retreat north by as much as 300 miles by the next century! Obviously this retreat will completely alter the landscape and the inhabitants that presently reside there.

The article continues, that if nothing changes the scientists predict in the next 100 years much of northern Minnesota will morph into vast prairies and grasslands much like one would find in America's heartland. With scrub oaks and bushes dominating the landscape it'll be unrecognizable and no longer be the ‘North Woods.’

In an aggressive attempt to mitigate the dire predictions a University of Minnesota Ph.D. Student David Chaffin in conjunction with the MN DNR (Department of Natural Resources) has spent the last two summers with a TruPulse 360 counting and mapping temperate tree species. The idea of course is to plant those trees less susceptible to ever warming temperatures that ultimately will replace current timber receding northward, swapping one type of wilderness for another.

Chaffin, using LTI's TruPulse 360, identifies preferable tree species and plots them along with other attribute points. The TruPulse 360 Rangefinder in concert with a GPS positioning system Chaffin only needs to occupy a single GPS coordinate. Then by using laser offsets and LTI's GIS mapping software he's able to map in hundreds of trees and other references visible in a 360⁰ rotation; ‘Mapping More Moving Less.’™ This simplifies the arduous task of creating a GIS map with thousands of attribute points that will, in the end, validate or refute this attempt to intervene and alter Mother Nature in a positive way.

While more than a science experiment there are those that warn of unintended consequences. Marcotty notes, "Still, these kinds of interventions are controversial, says Christian Messier, a forest ecologist at the University of Quebec. Many foresters trust that the forest will take care of its own evolution, as it has for thousands of years. They fear making mistakes that could launch new invasive species or massive insect infestations, Messier said. That debate is especially contentious around protected wilderness such as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Isle Royale National Park, where only nature is supposed to rule."

As in every debate, there are two or more sides to the argument. While there's no way to with any certainty predict species migration in the next 100 years, but there is one certainty in how it all shakes out. Laser Technology will continue to provide the precise information and data necessary to measure either side of the discussion.

Please do yourself a favor! Put a TruPulse 360 or any other of our family of lasers in your hands and see how much easier the job is with Laser Technology.

Read the article in the Star Tribune.
See more information on GIS/GPS Mapping and LTI laser measurement products.

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