BLUE RIVER, Ore. - It's not a new video game. Instead, it's the latest technology to hit Oregon's famous forests.
Scientists hope these lasers will be a powerful tool to keep forests healthy for generations to come.
Researchers are using the new LIDAR laser technology to help give ecosystems a boost and, they hope, slow down climate change.
Oregon is right in the middle of a vast field of carbon soakers: the forests of the Northwest. Scientists say these and other trees soak up about 2 billion tons of carbon worldwide, each year.
Researchers hope they can get trees to soak up even more with these laser pictures.
"The applications of the technology are wide open," says LIDAR project manager, Tom Spies, of the U.S. Forest Service.
It's called light detecting and ranging, LIDAR for short.
The technology's been used in Oregon to predict where landslides may occur.
Now it's being used at the H.J. Andrews Forest near Blue River. Spies told KVAL News, "Some of our computer programs then allow us to take that forest and rotate it and look at it from all kinds of angles.
The multi-colored images look almost like Christmas trees, but they hold important clues for forest scientists.
Spies said the detail can be brought down to individual tree branches if that's necessary.
They can be used to predict what animals or plants will live in a forest area and what tree species will absorb carbon dioxide at higher rates.
On Tuesday, scientists hit the ropes and climbed up a 280-foot old growth tree to verify the height measurements from the LIDAR.
"Quite a different perspective, ugh," said Oregon State University Forest Science professor Matt Betts as he pulled on his harness and started up the tree.
So what more can we learn about the forest ecosystem from this altitude?
Betts said we can learn a lot, especially with the LIDAR.
"What it's going to end up being is an excellent management tool to figure out which species are where in the forest and how much carbon there is and how it's distributed across the forest," Betts said from his tree perch.
Tom Spies added, "That's important for wildlife habitat, for ecosystem processes, for storing carbon, for measuring fire risk."
Proving again the view from above can be the clearest for forest health.
Most often the LIDAR forest images are taken from an airplane, but NASA is also using the technology from satellites in space.