Friday, September 12, 2008

SNS seminar in Iceland

Most Finns want to travel to hot and sunny regions whenever possible, but I like cool places even more. So when the opportunity to participate SNS forest inventory seminar in Egilsstaðir, East Iceland, emerged in last winter, there was no reason to hesitate. Even though our Joensuu university delegation’s pre-journey feelings suggested that this trip should probably be classified as “scientific tourism”, the official part of the programme included many interesting presentations about NFI and laser scanning topics. Also the country reports gave a clear view of the related research in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Highlight of my own presentation was the international revelation of the crown relascope, a new instrument for canopy cover measurements. Still, when the last “never-ending” session was finally finished, everyone was quite happy to get out of the auditorium to really see Iceland.

An old Icelandic joke reveals an answer to the question ”What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest? Just stand up”. It soon became clear that the modern Icelandic foresters don’t much like this joke. After visiting several forests near Egilsstaðir and Akureyri it became clear that they have a good reason to be proud of their success in increasing forest cover in a rather hostile environment. When the first tree in the country reached 20 meters height, the prime minister solemnly placed a memorial plate on the site of the historical event. Although we heard that some Icelanders are afraid that afforestation will destroy their open sceneries and make the country “look like Finland”, they are still very attracted to camping in forests by the lakes and rivers. Controversial?

Finnish larch going strong in the middle of the North-Atlantic

Not to be afforested in the near future

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A change of environment

Last week I got my first touch to field work in a completely new environment - eucalyptus plantings and South Australian native vegetation remnants - during a day trip to a test site where several hyperspectral (and LiDAR) remote sensing projects are carried out by my new colleagues at the University of Adelaide.

Before the trip, I had a glimpse at some hyperspectral images from the test site and browsed through some forest inventory data. However, I still couldn't imagine what the area would look like in real life.

Very different from what I was accustomed to, that's for sure. There were about 30 different tree species in a small area (I didn't know any of them), mallees, the ground was bare (with patches of green and yellow grasses). One thing is in common with coniferous canopies: the grouped structure of many of the eucalyptus crowns. I guess it's a good starting point to find some common factors in a new environment - psychologically, at least!

So, why the field trip? During the next few months, I will be collaborating with the local researchers and testing some of the approaches (such as the 'p-theory' for modeling canopy reflectance) that I have been working with in the boreal forests. This time only the environment will be very different -- hot, dry and full of eucalyptuses. Looking forward to the challenge and change!