Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pics, shoots and leaves: Ecologists turn digital cameras into climate change tools

Date:
December 20, 2012
Source:
British Ecological Society (BES)
Summary:
As digital cameras become better and cheaper, ecologists are turning these ubiquitous consumer devices into scientific tools to study how forests are responding to climate change. And, they say, digital cameras could be a cost-effective way of visually monitoring the spread of tree diseases. The results -- which come from 38,000 photographs -- are presented at this week's British Ecological Society's Annual Meeting at the University of Birmingham.

As digital cameras become better and cheaper, ecologists are turning these ubiquitous consumer devices into scientific tools to study how forests are responding to climate change. And, they say, digital cameras could be a cost-effective way of visually monitoring the spread of tree diseases. The results -- which come from 38,000 photographs -- are presented at this week's British Ecological Society's Annual Meeting at the University of Birmingham.

Because trees fix carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and store carbon as biomass and soil organic matter, forests play a vital role in helping regulate climate change. Forests are also affected by climate change, with buds bursting sooner as spring arrives earlier, and ecologists need to understand how this process affects the amount of carbon trees can lock away from the atmosphere.

Studying how forests take up CO2 during photosynthesis is a complex and costly business involving a world-wide network called FLUXNET, which monitors the exchange of CO2 between the atmosphere and forests from more than 500 instrument towers worldwide using a technique known as eddy covariance. Now, Toshie Mizunuma of the University of Edinburgh has developed a way of using the seasonal changes in forest colour captured in digital photographs to calculate how much CO2 deciduous trees soak up.

"Reliably predicting CO2 flux isn't easy because it varies a lot due to changes in weather and alterations in forest metabolism caused by pests and diseases. We also still do not understand what controls the timing of leaves coming out in spring and falling in autumn. So we need a cheaper, simpler way of gathering this long-term data," Mizunuma explains.

To work out how to use digital cameras to capture this data, in 2009 the team working with Mizunuma set up two different camera systems in Alice Holt Forest, Hampshire. A commercial oak forest planted in the 1930s, Alice Holt contains a 90 ha research plot which is part of several long-term studies including the UK Environmental Change Network (ECN) and the European forest health network ICP Forests.

The two cameras were set at different angles: an outdoor webcam with a near-horizontal view and a commercial 'fish-eye' digital camera looking down at the canopy from the top of a tower. The cameras snapped photos every 30 minutes during daylight for two years -- a total of 38,000 pictures, of which the four around midday were analysed.

She then analysed the colour of the forest canopy and compared it to FLUXNET measurements at the site: "The transition of colours from both cameras showed the seasonality of the forest: when budbreak started, the green sharply increased, gradually decreased in summer, and returned to the original level when leaves were shed; the rise of red colour was shown when oak leaves turned yellow in autumn. And the timing of the sharp increase in green coincided with the onset of carbon absorption."

"We estimated the carbon uptake using three fairly simple models, each using information about the level of incoming radiation, which is essential for photosynthesis. The modelled carbon uptake using 'hue', a parameter extracted from the photos, showed the strongest agreement with measured carbon uptake."

According to Mizunuma, the data confirm that digital cameras could be very useful in monitoring climate change effects in forests: "Our results suggest that digital cameras can be an important aid in monitoring forests and the colour signals can be a useful proxy for photosynthesis. Not only forests, one could install this system or one like it at any long term monitoring site. Long-term ecological observation is now crucial for study in climate change and biodiversity. Digital cameras provide long-run evident footage with relatively low cost without labour."

Toshie Mizunuma will present her full findings at 12:45 on Thursday 20 December 2012 to the British Ecological Society's Annual Meeting at the University of Birmingham.

A three-minute video on the research is available at: http://youtu.be/tbzcMrJi61Q


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by British Ecological Society (BES). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Toshie Mizunuma et al. The relationship between carbon dioxide uptake and canopy colour from two camera systems in a deciduous forest in southern England. Functional Ecology, December 2012; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12026

Cite This Page:

British Ecological Society (BES). "Pics, shoots and leaves: Ecologists turn digital cameras into climate change tools." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219223231.htm>.
British Ecological Society (BES). (2012, December 20). Pics, shoots and leaves: Ecologists turn digital cameras into climate change tools. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219223231.htm
British Ecological Society (BES). "Pics, shoots and leaves: Ecologists turn digital cameras into climate change tools." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219223231.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. Duration: 01:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) Malaysia's last "fish listeners" -- practitioners of a dying local art of listening underwater to locate their quarry -- try to keep the ancient technique alive in the face of industrial trawling and the depletion of stocks. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Wildfire Hits California's Angeles National Forest

Wildfire Hits California's Angeles National Forest

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 17, 2014) A wildfire sweeps across the Angeles National Forest prompting campers to quickly leave as officials began evacuating the area -- local media. Gavino Garay reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Symphony Performs at Southern Utah's Red Rocks

Symphony Performs at Southern Utah's Red Rocks

AP (Aug. 16, 2014) The Utah Symphony hopes to complement the beauty of Utah's soaring red rocks and canyons with free desert performances near Utah's national parks this weekend. (Aug. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins