IBM’s new AI tool figures out exactly how much carbon each tree can capture

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All trees suck up CO2 as they grow. But the type of tree and where it’s planted make a difference in how much carbon it can capture—and when companies pay for carbon offsets in forests, they’re often based on generic estimates that may not quite represent what’s actually growing in an area. A new tool in development from IBM uses AI to precisely map specific trees and better understand their climate benefit.

The technology starts with aerial images of trees along with lidar data, a 3D model that’s made when a laser mounted on an airplane measures the distance to objects on the ground. “You’ll have aircraft that flies back and forth over a piece of land and get very precise estimates of the elevation of different objects,” says Campbell Watson, an environmental scientist at IBM. “A tree, for example, appears as what we call a point cloud.” The data shows the height of each tree, the size of the crown, and even each individual leaf.

+INFO: Fast Company

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