In the skies above far-flung corners of the Brazilian Amazon, a small plane aims laser beams down at the treetops to create a real-time topography down to the ground. Its goal is simple: find gaps in the forest. “It may sound like a Star Wars movie, but this is just another application of lasers in our day-to-day lives,” Ricardo Dalagnol, a scientist at the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), told Mongabay in an email. “In practice, millions of laser beams are shot from an airplane over the forest, some beams hit the trees and some hit the ground. With this information, we can map trees and gaps.” Using this technique of airborne light detection and ranging technology, more commonly known as “lidar,” a team of researchers from INPE and the universities of Leeds and Birmingham in the U.K. remotely studied tree death and canopy gaps — holes in the green cover that extend from the tree tops down to the understory or ground. Their findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports. Information from the lidar lasers is translated into a point cloud image of the forest, seen here in profile. Image courtesy of Ricardo Dalagnol and INPE/EBA project lidar dataset. A lidar point cloud profile as viewed from the top. The warmer colors (yellow to red) are taller and the darker colors are closer to the ground.  Image courtesy of Ricardo Dalagnol and INPE/EBA project lidar dataset. Dalagnol, the study’s lead author, said reports of increased…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer