Tropical forests are vast and scientifically underexplored places. Biotic losses, gains, and reorganization within these systems go undetected due to a lack of access to technologies needed to monitor forest cover, composition, and carbon content. Provision of forest cover-monitoring tools for non-scientists has, thus, become a focus of innovation in the remote-sensing community, while advances in high-resolution forest carbon and biodiversity mapping science has progressed more slowly. This paper focuses on high-resolution remote-sensing developments to measure and monitor tropical forest canopies at the “organismic scale,” which is the resolution that resolves individual canopies and species throughout the forest landscape. Emphasis is placed on how forest carbon stocks can be mapped with precision and accuracy comparable to that of field-based estimates. Biodiversity mapping poses the greatest challenge, but recent advances in three-dimensional functional and structural trait imaging can reveal variation in species richness, abundance, and functional diversity over large geographic regions. The pay-off in pursuing these studies will be a vastly improved understanding of tropical biodiversity patterns and their underlying ecological and evolutionary drivers, which will have positive cascading effects on conservation decision-making and resource policy development.
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