New technology transforms study of tree crowns and Congo Basin dynamics

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Studying the dense and humid forests of the Congo Basin is no mean feat. Under rustling tree canopies, buttress roots tangle with climbing plants to form natural barriers, murky creeks cut across muddy and narrow paths, and the scorching heat and humidity fill the air with steam. Foresters have to hike for hours and even days in these conditions to get as close as possible to their subject of study.

The challenge is even bigger when the research in question requires measuring the crowns of huge tropical trees, some of them up to 60 meters high. Until recently, scientists had to estimate crown dimensions based on the shadows projected by trees, but in tropical rainforests trees are surrounded by thick vegetation and uneven ground, so the process was tiresome and the results somewhat imprecise.

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