Forest canopy communities are important in maintaining the diversity, resiliency, and functioning of the ecosystems they inhabit. With the increasing interest in and amounts of data on forest canopies that are resulting from new access techniques, ecologists require tools to deal with: 1) new types of data, 2) a great deal more data, and 3) the necessity of sharing data among researchers who have separate research questions. With the support of the National Science Foundation, we established the Canopy Research Network (CRN) to bring together forest canopy researchers, quantitative scientists, and computer scientists to develop methods to collect, analyze, and interpret three-dimensional spatial data relating to tree crowns and forest canopies. By means of a survey to canopy scientists, we compiled an array of research questions and a set of potentially applicable information models and software tools that are in use in allied fields. We found the young field of canopy science to be somewhat fragmented, with a tremendous range of questions spanning wide spatial scales and approaches. Canopy scientists have a wide range of tools available for access and data analysis, but few avenues for formal communication and synthesis among disciplines. There appears to be little overlap in use of software programs; respondents cited the use of 29 different software programs, 31 statistics packages, 31 statistics packages, 13 GIS programs, and 23 other software programs. Information on canopies is published in 72 journals, communicated at 17 different meetings, and informally exchanged via 13 electronic mail bulletin boards. To more easily overcome perceived obstacles, canopy scientists must find methods to more efficiently exchange ideas and information.
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