Sky eyes help scientists “see” the basement

Aerial spectroscopic image of the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in East Bethel, Minnesota. This site hosts the BioDIV Prairie Diversity Experiment, a small square grid found in the center of the image. The mosaic of this spectroscopic image is taken from multiple flight lines and colors are generated using only three of the hundreds of possible reflection wavelengths detected by the sensors on board the aircraft. Credits: John Gamon and Hamed Gholizadeh

The underground world is a busy place, forming a community of workers who break down plant materials and release nutrients, from fatty night crawlers to fine fungi. This is an essential process for sustaining life on Earth. Given the great footprint of humanity, it is important to identify where these processes are working well and where they need help. But how can you do that for the entire vast landscape?

New research published in Ecological monograph Leading by an ecologist at the University of Minnesota suggests that the answer may come from above.Researchers from all over the United States, Canada and Switzerland Remote sensing To study plant communities, we report on the characteristics of plants that we can sense from satellites. airplane It can provide valuable insights into what is happening under the soil.

“The ability to use remote sensing to predict soil processes over a wide range of spaces understands the biogeochemical cycle of the earth, including how nitrogen moves through ecosystems and how carbon accumulates and is stored underground. And it has very important implications for modeling, “said lead author Jeannine Cavender-Bares. , Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, Faculty of Biological Sciences, and Director of NSFASCEND Institute for Integrative Biology.

Sky eyes help scientists "look" underground

The concept of remote sensing of plants, their diversity and underground networks. Credit: Daniel Tchanz

Researchers rely on innovative technologies that take advantage of the differences in light absorption and reflection to enable distance identification of what kind of plant grows where, as well as its chemical composition. I did. They use this technique to characterize the plant species and chemistry of two grasslands, one with rich vegetation in Nebraska and one with low vegetation in the Sea Dark Leak Ecosystem Science Reserve at the University of Minnesota. I attached it. They then literally delved into the problem, drilling the soil beneath the remote-sensed location and measuring soil health characteristics such as microbial diversity, enzyme activity, and nitrogen and carbon concentrations.

Good news: Researchers have found that what is happening underwater actually correlates clearly with the traits of terrestrial plants. Complex News: The ground characteristics that best predicted underground characteristics were different at the two sites.Vegetation volume is best predicted in areas with low vegetation underground The condition was that in richer places, the composition of vegetation on the ground was important.

“We are very excited to be able to infer what is happening in the soil from what we see from the sky,” said a professor of ecology, evolution and behavior in the Faculty of Biological Sciences. , Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area Long-Term Ecological Research Program. “The fact that this depends on vegetation diversity and productivity now needs attention to fine-tune the understanding of the relationship so that the health of the underground ecosystem can ultimately be assessed on a large scale. It means “”.

Continued efforts to further develop these new insights and remote sensing capabilities will only deepen our understanding of the causes and consequences of biodiversity changes and inform next-generation conservation ideas and policies. “Our goal is to use this literally figurative perspective to support the management and restoration of ecosystems and to maintain our planet in this era of rapid global change,” C. Vendor Bears says.

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For more information:
Jeannine Cavender-Bares et al, remotely detected above-ground plant function, predicts underground processes in two prairie diversity experiments. Ecological monograph (2021). DOI: 10.1002 / ecm.1488

Quote: Eye in the sky helps scientists “see” the basement (February 23, 2022).

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Sky eyes help scientists “see” the basement

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