Berkeley Lab scientists devise new tools for detecting previously unknown tree mortality.
The Earth’s forests perform a well-known service to the planet, absorbing a great deal of the carbon dioxide pollution emitted into the atmosphere from human activities. But when trees are killed by natural disturbances, such as fire, drought or wind, their decay also releases carbon back into the atmosphere, making it critical to quantify tree mortality in order to understand the role of forests in the global climate system. Tropical old-growth forests may play a large role in this absorption service, yet tree mortality patterns for these forests are not well understood.
Now scientist Jeffrey Chambers and colleagues at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have devised an analytical method that combines satellite images, simulation modeling and painstaking fieldwork to help researchers detect forest mortality patterns and trends. This new tool will enhance understanding of the role of forests in carbon sequestration and the impact of climate change on such disturbances. (more…)